Bloodshed to Watershed

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021


Put your sword away,
for all who pick up swords
perish by the sword.

Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 26:52)

Seeker,
How has gun violence touched your life?

At a weekly vigil
for homicide victims
this insight was shared:

Hurting people hurt people
and healing people
heal people.

An insight turned lethal
in a marketplace flooded
with murderous weaponry

that makes it much easier
to kill more people more efficiently
than ever before in our bloodied story.

Is there a sadder sign
of the victory of violence than
numbness to nightly gunshots?

In the crosshairs of a national epidemic
that daily claims hundreds of humans,
who stops to say the name?

Might this slow rolling genocide
be tolerable because mostly it steals
lives from lower-income communities of color?

Yet even when
collateral casualties
are lighter and littler

is this still considered the cost of living,
price-tag of personal freedom
that kills at will?


Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.

Thomas Merton

Such deadly derangement
fueled by
the merchandizing of weaponry,

draws us into
the self-fulfilling prophecy
that guns alone guarantee safety.

So we are left
at the mercy of militarized policing,
camouflaged militias, disaffected isolationists

well-equipped to transform a school day,
a traffic stop, a movie night,
a trip to store or synagogue into a bloody massacre.

Intoxicated by belligerence,
religionists engage in cultural warfare,
under the banner of “spiritual warriors.”

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be known
as God own.

Matthew 5:9

Before being arrested by an armed militia,
before being beaten and tortured,
before being shackled and imprisoned,

before being tried
in the courtyard
of mob delirium,

before the gruesome spectacle
of public execution,
and that last forgiving gasp,

a peacemaking enemy-lover
walked among exploited
terrorized, occupied people

and boldly proclaimed
a peaceable realm
of disarmed hearts and unfettered minds.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5: 44

This radical revolution
of the heart
if embraced by nations and neighborhoods

or courageously preached,
and witnessed
by prelates and politicians

would surely subvert
the tyranny of individualism
with a call to mutual co-responsibility.

It might even threaten
manufacturers and marketers
of divisiveness and deadly force.

The greatest challenge of the day is:
how to bring about a revolution of the heart,
a revolution that has to start with each one of us.

Dorothy Day

Passionately Christ still hangs
around bloodied crossroads
where violence claims another victim,

crying and pleading
for us
to put swords away,

calling us to transform
bloodshed into watershed
with a complete change in direction and motivation.

Gunshots in the night
ought to disturb
and keep us awake.

Because things do not have to be this way.
Because there is absolutely no glory in killing.
Because healing starts with acknowledging hurt as well as sickness.

May we …
choose not to ignore.
accept responsibility for a culture of fear.
name and claim victims and perpetrators of violence as kin.
reclaim humanity from brutality.
affirm that our wellbeing is bound together.

May it be so,
joe

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

Via Dolorosa

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

They compelled a passerby called Simon from Cyrene,
to carry his cross up to Golgotha, the skull place.

Mark 15: 21-22

Seeker,
Who shares burden and brings light to these difficult days?

What a panged journey,
this year-long
trail to Calvary.

Breathless millions
have succumbed along the way,
ten times more wane under viral load.

No time to mourn,
and catch our breath
as we languish in lamentation.

Some walk with the afflicted
others keep their distance,
many more worry and in isolation wait.

When will the long shadow lift,
and the deep vale widen into bright, broad plain,
as we round the bend and flatten the curve?

No symbolic suffering
needed to sanctify
such sacred space and time.

Unwillingly we walk
the dolorous road,
compelled to bear the load of suffering shared.

Walking amid mournful mothers,
past empty churches
through streets deserted,

despite heroic efforts
and miraculous curatives,
death mutates as danger lingers.

Out of that empty spot of silence
where we feel helpless, embarrassed, and powerless,
where we suffer from our own impotence
to stop the reign of death in our world.
Out of those depths we cry to thee and say:
Lord have mercy.

Henri Nouwen

With springtime uprising
comes upwelling hope
and lengthening light that shrinks shadows.

Even as we long to unmask and breathe free,
hug and hold and wipe tears away
learning to live more carefully,

still must we bear these beams of love
to the shrine of the skull
facing up to cruel injustice that rules this land.

So we brace ourselves
for the last arduous steps
toward a new day,

leaning into each other,
looking for life signs
refusing to resign to despair.

Via Crucis by Joe Grant *

Though we choose to walk in
the footsteps of the condemned,
we refuse to relinquish hope.

Though we accept to accompany
the ones who suffer,
we do not yield to despair.

Though we offer to help shoulder
the burden of those rejected,
we are not vanquished by death.

Though we stand in solidarity
and witness the persecution of the innocent,
we are not resigned to apathy.

Though we wrestle with complicity
in the injustice around us
we refuse to be paralyzed.

Though we walk in the valley
of the shadow of death,
we shall not fear,

for with You
we find forgiveness
and peace.

Heal us with Your forgiveness.
Calm us with Your peace.
Inspire us with Your love.

*(Included in Engaging Spirituality)

Burdens shared are halved
and blessings shared are doubled.

David Steindl-Rast

May you share the weight of sorrow
and bring the burden of delight to bear
on our transition back to life,

joe

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

Restless Reclamation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

So much in love with cosmos entire,
Holy One sent the Beloved,
that in believing all might know outlasting life.
For this very reason, was the Chosen One self-given,
not to condemn but to make whole the world.

John 3:16-17

Seeker,
What must be let go for love to reclaim you?

Have you noticed
a restlessness
all around and underground?

At long last,
the spell of dark discontent is breaking,
setting free a sprouting season of changeability.

All who wish to wake up
are invited into this miraculous melee
to let themselves be reclaimed in rejuvenation.

And there is work to do across the nation;
to furrow old crust, soften ruts,
and cleanse the land of poisons of the past.

This is how we ready ourselves for implanting
a message about wholeness and liberate love
from chains of persecution and patterns of privilege.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Bernice Johnson Reagon

In the bending and bowed trajectory of time
life is irresistibly drawn down
into a well of dying to be made new.

Down-falling and up-welling;
around these seasonal pivots
our whole whirling planet swivels.

From dying down to rising up
LIFE dances in sweeping
ceaseless choreography.

Transmuting death and decay,
with tenacious resilience,
self-giving regenerates and resurges.

Watered by loss,
such revolutionary surrender
by relinquishment is made tender.

Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.

Meister Eckhart

Where Divinity is love long-suffering,
condemnation evaporates
in the panged glare of compassion.

No thing
forever lost,
but upheld in unending restoration.

even in the quietest sense of disappearance,
even in the far distance of times beyond
our present understanding, we will be remembered
in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.

David Whyte

In the upwelling,
extravagant love yields abundance
with breathtaking diversity: no wasted time nor wasted life.

Through concrete cracks and hairline fissures,
in barren lots, abandonment and ruination,
nature persists in perennial reclamation.

With life-giving love as motivation,
every sunrise offers ample opportunity,
to collaborate with care-filled renovation.

Willful and willing,
all participate in this lifegiving cycle;
loving by losing, living by forgiving.

So we grow
by shedding and releasing
to rejoin outpouring everlasting.

Through love, we are softened back into presence.
And through suffering, we are broken back into presence.
However we get there, dropping below the surface of things
returns us to the heart of all being, which sustains the kinship between all things…

Mark Nepo

Those familiar with wilderness
know wasteland
as a garden in waiting.

Every landscape offers lessons,
and with slight encouragements,
deserts bloom.

But desert living presumes patience,
demands readiness,
requires willingness to grow by giving.

Ravaged lands,
baked hard by exploitation
and careless disregard

present the most resilient,
efforts and irrepressible
expressions of creation.

By such weeds are we saved,
since here healing awaits us too;
tenacious tenderness in unexpected places.

Needs beyond us
draw out deeper love,
lead to bigger belonging and wider reclamation.

As you bare your soles to earthy softness
may it writhe and wriggle,
to tease and tickle newness out of you,

joe

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

Seedtime

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

This truth I tell,
unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but should it die there,
much fruit will it surely bear.

John 12: 24-25

Seeker,
How is hope planted or buried in the soil of these times?

Always surprising,
vibrant and verdant,
springtime softens winter sharpness.

Long has life languished,
in urgent anticipation
of a seasonal revolution,

aching for the return
of warmer rains
to seep into frosted corners

so leafy windblown casts
of a brittle past,
encrusted with toil and loss,

can soak and crumble
into loamy dark,
ready to receive

what we thought
had been buried
but was actually planted.

So subtly significant
this distinction
between burying and planting;

the slightest shift of intention,
attitude and expectation
can turn the motivation for interment;

from grave to ground,
committal to commitment,
dissipation to dispersal;

from scattered sprinkling
to soil seeding
with possibilities unseeable;

from sorrow-sodden lacrimation
to watering and quietly awaiting
tiny emerald eruptions of fragile hope.

I’ll plant and water, sow and weed,
Till not an inch of earth shows brown,
And take a vow of each small seed
To grow to greenness and renown …

Edith Nesbit

Being fallow, remaining receptive,
are more than the passive attitudes
of a lengthening season.

Seedtime requires furrowing—
willing breakdown and soul softening—
that openly permits promised renovation to root.

One barrier yet remains
impervious to malleable mercy:
the hard-baked clay of cynicism.

For the sin of the cynic
smugly rests in the presumption to already know,
thus allowing nothing new to root and grow.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

Marty Rubin

Empty within,
spare, cleared, scoured and bare,
surrounded by starkness and surrender,

such are the signals
of deeper discontent and disquiet
that prepare the soul for penetration.

Soil must be broken open,
seed broadly flung,
husk shed.

What feels like losing,
reckless abandon,
careless casting of life,

is but part
of the broader, longer
resignation and relinquishment;

of clenched fist,
of calloused cruelty,
of haughty disregard

that seek only to condemn,
control, contradict
the gush of grace.

This free-flowing seedtime shower
drenches and disturbs
to draw newness out through the crack.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Indeed the hardest part of growing new
is not giving up, but giving in
to the relentless rush of restoration.

To believe again,
through necessary change in mind and heart-sight,
that nothing is ever really lost or wasted.

For the worst and worn out
still is needed
to fertilize the new and freshly unexpected.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have these two
housed as they are in the same body.

Mary Oliver

After a winter of lonely longing,
may you bury deep despair
and plant a joyful seed with tender care!

joe

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

Peace Profound

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Dear Seeker,
In these extraordinary, perilous times
let us call upon
the pervasive, penetrating Presence,
of the recreative Spirit of Truth
who is peace, wholeness, healing
deeper and wider
than division, destruction, fear and fanaticism.

I offer this ancient invocation, reframed for our time.
Let this intention resound
beyond the walls of your heart
as you set this Spirit loose to breathe
over the face of our fractured, fear-filled nation.

An ancient blessing renewed,
for all who are heart-sore,
worried or wondering at this turning of turning:

Deep Peace of the running wave, and the cleansing of the waters.
Deep Peace of
the flowing air, and the clearing of the skies.
Deep Peace of the soft rain, and the shelter of friendship.
Deep Peace of shining stars, and the memory of timeless beginnings.
Deep Peace of the quiet earth, and the kinship of all creatures.
Deep Peace of the gentle night, and the warm hearth of family.
Deep Peace of the ancient stones, and the tenacity of life.
Deep Peace of the heart of Mary, and the tender touch of every mother.
Deep Peace of the Christ child, and the Holy One guised as enemy and kin.
Deep Peace of our merciful Maker, and the Spirit who makes us one.
To the terrors of the night, and the troubles of your day, Deep Peace.

Celtic Traditional (Adapted)

Excerpted from Wandering and Welcome by Joe Grant

joe

A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Fresh Start

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

In the dark before dawn, he awoke and went into the wilds to pray.
Simon and his companions sought him out and finding him said,
‘Everyone is looking for you.’

Mark 1:35-37

Seeker,
What are you looking for in this fresh and fragile new year?

On the cusp of a year brand-new,
we wonder what to hold and what to let go;
means and mindsets that need to die, so newness now can grow.

Names and faces in hallowed memoriam held;
losses that will never leave us, lashed to our regret;
lessons we cannot afford to ignore or too quickly forget.

Upon this weathered threshold,
we dare not wish away
a past, now part of us, that brought us to brink of day.

They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor

Mary Oliver, On Winter’s Margin

For we must believe in beginnings,
resist the draw to replicate or retain
previous patterns, expectations and well-practiced distain.

In mind and mode, already things have changed,
hopefully so will we.
For a start to be new and fresh, we really must break free.

Often we embark with committed resolve,
which quickly dissipates and leaves
as we fold back into the familiar that readily deceives.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

In policy and practicality,
what must we bring to an end,
so we might at least start to make amends?

Will we listen hard to injustice at the root,
reject rampant falsehood, face our fears within
to bravely embrace a wider truth so reconciling might begin?

Will we loose spirited imagination not ours,
to revise, renew and creatively restore
the scoured face of earth, scorched, parched and sore?

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush …

R. S. Thomas

Though we may lack capacity
to realize what begs to be done,
still, can we decide who we each intend to become.

Reshaping community and beyond,
will require of us “good trouble”
to fins a pathway clear through all the smoke and rubble.

So in this dark before dawn
let wild soul searching start
for the Christ we must reclaim when our world is torn apart.

joe

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

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