Quiet Disquiet

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


Early in the morning, while still quite dark,
he got up, left for a quiet place, and prayed there.

Mark 1:35

{Concerning this critical time.
No-one is
immune to suffering.

As we wake up to the awareness that,
whether we like it or not, we are on a painful journey together,
isolation and distancing can feel like cruel medicine.

Yet, our collective suffering
can be a crucible of transformation
where social confinement becomes gestational.

For in the quiet disquiet
we can also make space to welcome a worried world
where so many suffer with us.

It is within disquiet, devoid of solution,
that resolution can coalesce,
born of suffering shared.}

Seeker,
Do you know you are loved? How do you know?

As ceaseless waves and booming surf,
while filled with agitation,
can also calm our anxious thoughts, our fussing and frustration,

so, even in our trying times,
when fraught with troubled task;
we still might find tranquility and in the quiet bask.

If we will be quiet and ready enough,
we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
Henry David Thoreau

We often speak
of background noise,
but fail to notice ambient quiet.

For every stirring sound or commotion
comes gift-wrapped;
soaked in all-surrounding silence.

In silence God ceases to be an object
and becomes an experience.
Thomas Merton

More than lack of noise,
pervasive sound-less-ness is the vehicle
for every breathed or bellowed expression.

Nor is such stillness
determined by or limited to
immediate surroundings.

Quiet is, more precisely, a disposition;
a state of mind and heart; a way of being;
a presence as much as a place.

No matter
where we locate our lives,
it is possible, though not always easy,

to welcome
silence amid clamor, stillness in agitation
and solitude in a throng.

How we present ourselves—
awake or unavailable– shapes how we perceive
and participate in the real.

Lead us from the unreal into the real. Upanishads

There is quiet within disquiet, and vice versa.
And the singular precondition for stillness is desire;
a readiness to attend it.

No amount of recitation and ritual
can draw us into quiet disquiet,
unless we are willing to be led.

Quiet presence opens minds,
readies hearts to receive, and makes accessible
love in the pause that punctuates each breath.

Love is the Holy One,
so any who reside in love
abide in the Holy One,
who likewise abides in them.

1 John 4:16

It is apt to speak
of “falling silent” as in letting go,
sinking or surrendering.

So vast, that dark noiseless blanket
we call “space,”
in which every vibration is carried, absorbed, dissipated.

Yet, falling into this quiet obscurity
we are re-minded of the whispered secret
that breathes us into being:

“You are beloved.
And so too everything in the arc
of compassion’s radiance is loved into being.”

The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whisper’d in the sounds of silence.

Paul Simon

We cannot erase disquiet.
The struggles and sorrows of living
are not background noise.

Love is also a verb;
momentum to disturb complacency
with passion that pains, burning as it heals.

Those aches, hopes, hurts—
gritty and global—
are not a side-show we can ignore.

So, drawn into quietude,
with heart attuned to that spot beyond thought
and the reach of answers,

may you listen through the clash of events
to the resonance beyond the strike,
and heed its silent plea:

Wherever disturbance, seek the still-point.
Wherever peace, look also for disquiet.
Wherever distress, make space for compassion.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
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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

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Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill
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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

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

A New Book by Joe Grant


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

The Pace of Peace

Picture by Joe Grant © 2019

I leave peace with you; I give my peace to you.
Not as the world gives it. Let not your hearts be troubled and afraid.
John 14:27

Seeker,
What will it take to slow you down?

When walking the woods,
nothing in Nature
urges me to move faster.

Should you walk into Life,
sauntering so your soul catches up,
your stroll becomes a pilgrimage.

Embracing “pilgrim-hood”,
every sign is received
as a message from the “Wholly Present One”.

A neighborhood notice
at a four-way stop proclaims:
“Slow down, children at play!”

What might it take, I wonder,
for me, for you, for those who are dear,
to slow our pace for all of us children, far and near?

How can we find peace, true peace, if we forget that we are not machines for making and spending money, but spiritual beings, sons and daughters of the most high God? Thomas Merton

Deluged daily by information,
we are adrift in a swell
of contrasting and comparing:

expecting, wanting,
needing more;
better, quicker, sooner.

There is all around and within us
a cult of consumption, a climate of competition,
a craving for accomplishment.

The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”…the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Pope Francis

How might we show,
by spacious pace and living slow,
that every creature merits our attentive care?

Amid the fear-fueled,
anxious urgency of this age,
could the way to peace begin by slowing everything down?

Slower and lower, where less is more:
might just light the way
through earth’s dark night.

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Oscar Romero

Imagine relationship
valued over achievement,
and caring holding sway over competing.

What if contemplating
overruled calculating,
and love won over everything.

For surrender, not vindication, is the way to reconciliation,
and peace is the fruit of a willingness
to compassionately dissolve distance.

It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow. It is so easy to commit ourselves to this century’s demand for product and action until the product consumes us and the actions exhaust us and we can no longer even remember why we set out to do them in the first place. Joan Chittister

Much more
than the halting of hostility
or the absence of aggression,

peace is gradually cultivated
through the prevalence of pardon,
ripened by courageous reconciling.

The slower you walk and the lower you live,
the more will you safeguard God’s children today,
who simply wish to wonder and hope to play,

So, let the leaves drop,
and as you watch them fall away,
may they slowly undo the doings of your day.

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM

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

Ever Ready

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Be dressed and ready with your lamps lit. Luke 12:35

Seeker,
What do you need to put down in order to be ready to receive?

In contrast to drowsy relaxation,
contemplation is readiness in its heightened state,
as in: Ready! Steady! Wait!

For, in any given moment,
grace makes an unassuming appearance
should you be quietly alert, poised and ready to receive her.

Such attentiveness
allows prayer to blossom into undivided presence—
being ‘now’ and nowhere else.

Here wonder erupts and sweetly ripens—
fruit of radical hospitality—
into that eager desire to unwrap the surprising present.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
Absolute unmixed attention is prayer.
Simone Weil

Stooping to examine the fruits of presence
leads to grounded living—
being intently focused and wholly here:

captivated by majesty
devastated by tragedy, inspired by miracles,
moved by mystery.

My heart is ready, Holy One, ready is my heart;
I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul!

Psalm 108

As awareness deepens,
we reach out to be touched
and the saturated moment overflows into blessing.

Benediction broadens
when hearts stretch and minds open,
allowing generous kinship to widen.

All things are ready, if our minds be so. William Shakespeare, Henry V

When abundance peaks
through this gracious embrace of life
we enter the sanctuary of awe.

Now, reverence weaves a silence
that melts into gratitude,
uncapping an infinite well of great fullness.

And gratefulness is just the prelude to joy.
No joy without gratitude.
This surest sign of Presence cannot be manufactured.

I will give thanks to you, Holy One, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Psalm 108:1-3

Innate inquisitiveness beckons us to look more deeply,
to savor and connect with life,
which further fuels amazement.

Such curiosity—caring enough to inquire—
is a natural trait of children, whose ready openheartedness
earns them primacy in the Realm of the Reachable.

‘I tell you truly, whoever does not receive God’s Realm like a little child will never enter it.’ And he embraced them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16

On the other hand, disassociated living—
conceding to the rote and routine of acting and reacting—
is soul-sleeping sickness.

Relentlessly cruising from task to task—
reaching for the next, bypassing the now—
life over-washes yet fails to rouse us.

There are multiple realities surrounding me
and I know that I must keep the eyes of my heart open
to allow all of existence to be.
Catherine Garland

Even a scintilla of presence
can draw the heart’s inquisitive eye
and spark wakefulness.

…for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says, ‘Awake sleeper! Arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Ephesians 5:14

How light to be enlightened!
We need only to let down our guard,
open our eyes and let in delight.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM
To pre-order: 
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace-pre-order-set-for-release-on-11-12-2019-12-00-00-am





Disturbing Peace

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

Seeker,
How do you encounter peace in these disturbing days?

At the beginning of beginnings,
before there was anything
but depth of darkness,

Spirit hovered
over the face of the deep
to disturb the waters.

Thus, paradox was born
in the rippling Holy Breath of life:
Disturbing Peace.

And that initial exhalation,
first creative sound—shalom, salaam, peace—
breathed everything into being.

Each subsequent sacred encounter
was premised by a calming invitation:
“Peace, do not be afraid!”

… he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:22

So, we catch our breath
to welcome peace into troubled minds.
and with each deep draw, invite peace of heart.

Now unencumbered,
we become available to the embrace of Shalom—
peace not sourced in us, that offers rest for the soul.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief
. Wendell Berry

In its fullest sense,
the deeper peace for which we ache,
describes a wholeness wider than the cessation of conflict or confusion.

Such shalom is the expression
of our innermost desire for completeness,
uncovered in the righting of our relationships with life.

The impeded stream is the one that sings. Wendell Berry

Holy Peace has yet another dimension.
It can appear, be extended and shared, in times of distress.
When most needed, it is drawn out of us.

Consider a time of trauma:
when hard news breaks over you; difficult decisions must be made;
loved ones leave; life’s end looms.

Shalom is also the unexpected consolation amid desolation;
serenity in turmoil; calm in the eye of the storm;
peace that breaks out in broken-openness.

When it was evening on the first day of the week, and the doors were locked for fear of the authorities, Jesus came in, stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he showed them his hands and his side. John 20:19-20

Like a fresh breeze, Christ breaks through
to blow our minds,
and baring his wounds, bestows a renewing Spirit.

We address distress—
inner turbulence as well as outer troubles—
by invoking the life-breath of a new creation.

Jesus promised disturbing peace—
not bolstered by systems of power or security—
stillness rooted in the Presence of providence and mercy.

The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Abraham Heschel

Christ-peace becomes
the embodiment of nonviolence;
with all mind, heart, soul and strength.

Followers of Jesus are committed
to the wounded Christ,
who breaks into our midst to disturb us from complacency.

And shalom involves a willingness
boldly to bear
the costly consequences of nonviolent living.

Breathe through us Breath of Life,
Your peace makes us new,
so we can love as you would love
our friends and enemies too!

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill