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

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

A Heart Contrite

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

…the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:47

Seeker
Can you recall a time when you begged or extended forgiveness?

Reconciliation requires a heartfelt admission;
the expression of our failures and complicity,
with a desire to be made whole and make amends.

Healing happens as we welcome fallibility,
embrace incompleteness, and open a window
into what it is to be human, what it means to be holy.

Our human grace is not that we are creatures of God, not even that we are image of God. The ultimate divine foolishness… is that we are children of God. Wilfrid Harrington

Among the hardest, most sublime experiences
of my life as a parent are those times
when I’ve had to ask my children for forgiveness.

Though we make every effort
to teach our children to make apologies,
earnest expressions of regret remain rare and rigorous.

Have you known
that burn of remorse
when your actions or failings wounded the ones you love?

Yet precisely here
are we presented with a powerful opportunity
to demonstrate depth of love for one another.

It is equally as difficult, and just as holy,
when our parents, in their frailty,
turn to us for forgiveness; laying bare their inadequacy.

Have mercy on me, Holy One,
according to your unwavering love…
Psalm 51:1

Remorse aches for release.
Churning and burning, it pains us
when it is suppressed.

Despite all attempts at control,
the breath quickens, the voice quivers, the hands tremble;
we flush at naked honesty as warm tears leak.

These are but physical presentations
of a sacred condition brought on by unburdening regret
before a spouse, a friend, a child, a neighbor, an enemy.

When we beg forgiveness,
we reveal our truth
as wayward, willful, wonderful children of the Holy One.

Daring to unmask our innermost
by setting aside self-assuredness
requires real courage.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken, contrite heart, O Holy One, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:17

Who can refuse
wholehearted contrition.
It is the lever that flings wide the floodgates of mercy.

Transformations, personal and social, are sourced
in contrition and remorse;
so speak the prophets.

Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. Martin Luther King Jr.

Good News announces
that our merciful Maker is met by the embrace of enemy love
in the midst of muddled, messy, misguided lives.

This world yearns
for forgiveness
to melt us, restore our relationships, refashion our lives.

When we submit to such a forgiving Spirit,
defenses tumble, self-righteousness slips its moorings,
frigid bitterness thaws and newness emerges.

Create a clean heart in me, O Holy One, and put within me a newly righted spirit. Psalm 51: 19 0

Contrition; succumbing to grief,
seeking forgiveness;
spikes sorrow’s bitter draft with heaven’s sweet tang.

Whether it is for the desecration of hilltops, the desolation of shantytowns, the distractions of consumption, or the neglect of neighbors, contrition recasts us all in the fire of forgiveness.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now available, November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant