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


Standing Under

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Because in seeing they do not perceive, in listening they fail to hear, nor do they understand.

Matthew 13:13

Seeker,
What are you willing to let go to make room for understanding to grow?

We do not see things as THEY are. We see things as WE are.

Talmud

How, and where, and with whom we stand really matters.
While many jockey for prime position in the race lineup,
where we choose to place ourselves is vital.

Where do we stand? How do we stand?
What do we stand for, and, most importantly, with whom are we willing to stand?

Our first task in approaching another people,
another culture, another religion is to take off our shoes,
for the ground we are approaching is holy.

Max Warren

Prepositions are revealing.
They locate us; standing out, on, over, under, with,
against, apart, up, down, aside, beside, for …

By-standing is
not the same as with-standing.
Out-standing is not the same as standing out.

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

James Baldwin

And there is more
to standing
than standing still.

More than the fruit of standing still, understanding expands
only when we listen longer, look harder, let go to learn
from those consigned to stand under the heel of history.

We see from where we stand.

Haitian Proverb

Will you humbly stand
with lives that do not seem to matter;
dis-advantaged, misunderstood and maligned?

Standing together under the Reign of Mercy; listening as
suffering speaks; restoring equity; celebrating commonality in diversity; this is our pathway toward deeper, fuller understanding.

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī,

joe

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Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant

Heart to Heart

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

If any desire to come after me, let them deny themselves [their privilege], take up their cross, and follow.

Matthew 16:24

Seeker,
What do you need to set down and lift up for healing to happen?

Vividly I recall
my first trip outside,
while recuperating from open-heart surgery.

Weak at the knees,
terrified of falling,
I needed help to steady me.

Clutching a pillow to my cracked chest,
everything, everyone
moved so quickly.

A voice chimed within:
this fear, this slow fragility, this dependence;
this is HOLY!

As for me I am poor and needy, yet God takes thought for me.

Psalm 40:17

Slowly I shuffled
into the awareness that solidarity in suffering
would gentle me,

draw me
to other companions
likewise injured, frail, fearful.

I know I am one among the broken,
and this realization is key
to healing hearts.

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken… our greatest gift… is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer…

Henri Nouwen

Sure-footed once more,
Still I wrestle with the cost of living:
a heart broken.

Regularly I am reminded
of grace that germinates unseen
in dark days.

While healing continues,
I endeavor to hold on
to wisdom sorely won in the school of suffering.

I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair… Our dreams will sometimes be shattered, and our hopes blasted.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Every day,
compassion cries to be unleashed;
mercy needs to be nurtured; forgiveness begs for release.

These truest expressions of our condition
can inoculate us
from forces determined to pull us apart.

Holy compassion,
insinuated into the fiber of our being,
delivers us from division by folding us back into one another.

Without compassion
there is no hope.
Without hope, no recourse for change.

There must be times, there will be times when we too are afraid to give or forgive, afraid to cry out against injustice, afraid to face an incurable illness. We must recognize a basic reality: courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling afraid to do something but still finding the strength to do it anyway.

Walter Burghardt

Before our eyes, beneath our feet,
at our fingertips
a universe of possibilities awaits.

There is wonder
amid disturbance and distress,
and courage reflected in the face of social disintegration.

May you find your way,
to express gratefulness for all that touches you,
and thus immunize yourself against corrosive cynicism.

May you refuse to let fear hold you back
from humbly connecting, heart to heart,
conjoined in the wonderful-woundedness of living.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A book by Joe Grant

Cross-Fire

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

[In memory of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, killed in the crossfire by police on March 13th, 2020 when they broke into her home in Louisville, Kentucky.]


Blessed the meek, it is they who will inherit the land.

Matthew 5:5

Seeker,
Are you strong enough to be gently tenacious in trying times?

I was a young man in the early 1980s,
crossing Belfast city
during deeply troubled times.

From the bus stop I watched
whirring helicopters
announce armored personnel carriers.

Strings of camouflaged soldiers emerged,
hugging doorways, scanning streets
through crosshairs.

Two of them pursued me
to the upper deck
of the bus.

The crucifix around my neck,
advertising my denomination,
targeted me for trouble.

Pointing his rifle,
with booming profanity,
a soldier interrogated me.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Scared speechless,
I stared at the muzzle,
so close to my body.

In the mounting tension,
I noticed the other barrel
gently trembling.

Looking up,
I caught the wide eyes,
of a soldier my age.

One disarming glance
captured centuries bloodied by strife,
sectarian and state sponsored.

Scared like me,
young like me,
caught like me.

Like me, I could see
he wanted off that bus;
to make a break

from spirals of repression and rebellion,
with their myths and martyrs,
hallowed heroes, villains and so many victims.

Surely he did not wish to succumb to a sniper’s bullet,
or shoot at rock-wielding children?
Nor did I desire to be caught in the crossfire.

When finally I alighted,
I was determined to leave behind on that bus
a heritage of rebel songs, slogans and religious bigotry.

I sought a new identity, to inhabit a wider world;
a deeper peace, to no longer be afraid and angry;
a larger love, to set me free.

We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world … there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.

Dorothy Day

Four decades on, in another inner city,
I keep anxious vigil under
the staccato throb of helicopters and screaming sirens.

As young ones stand boldly,
amid clouds of tear gas
and the boom of shock grenades,

my weary hearts sinks
and I shudder;
after all these years trapped on that bus.

Spirituality is not learned by flight from the world,
by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.

Meister Eckhart

Borrowing from highland clans in my homeland,
hooded figures spread terror in this land
by setting crosses aflame.

Still, across this nation,
racial domination reigns with systemic supremacy,
bolstered by fear and apathy.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Paradoxically,
redemption rests in the tenacity of meekness.
If you think meekness is weakness, try being meek for a week!

Rejecting imperial ways and means,
Jesus resisted with the radical nonviolence
of the humble of the earth.

Such meekness is not for the timid.
Well-rooted in compassion, with courageous resolve,
it refuses to submit to the subjugation of anyone.

Have you witnessed nature’s
magnificent meekness,
her enduing power to persist and resist?

Let us invoke that gentle strength
to stand up, stand strong, stand together for a worthier world,
gently and stubbornly, with the tenacity of trees by the waterside.


joe

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
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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

Just Imagine

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

Mark 13:8

Seeker,
Facing recurring pandemics, what are we turning into and turning away from?

Before time and darkness—
awash in absence and no-thing-ness—
sacred imagination flared into explosive creativity.

All being is born of this mysterious Source,
for no thing becomes real unless first imagined,
and imagination craves a challenge.

The painful pause presented by global pandemic
provides a teachable moment
for the earth community.

Now, can we flex our fantastic capacity
for re-creative re-conception and entertain
un-imagined opportunities for restoration.

We have more power at our disposal today than we have ever had,
and yet we are more alienated and estranged from the inner ground
of meaning and of love than we have ever been.

Thomas Merton

When we attend to resonant wisdom within,
we discover we already have all we need
to make a new beginning.

Regarding Nature,
we are bathed in beauty,
inspired by her resilient resurgence.

Exploring creative connections
with isolated neighbors,
we discover the elixir of smiles and abundant kindnesses.

Humbly baring our souls
before the Mystery at the core,
we find our compass contained within “compass-ion.”

There is nothing like shared suffering
to bring us to our senses
and bind us back together.

This is the hour of change, and within it we stand quietly together on the border of light.
What lies before us? Where shall our hearts turn?
Shall we draw back, or shall we cross over?

Shabbat Prayer

Wondering how we might emerge,
we ready the way for re-creative imagining—
our first tentative step toward realization.

Personal preservation graduates into social responsibility
in turning our heart’s attention beyond the now
toward the next, and out to neighbors near and far.

Winnowing begins when we start
to sift out seed grain
amid the castings of what used to be.

Surely, we are not consigned
to gun-ridden dystopias
where hoarding mobs crush the vulnerable?

There are wars and rumors of war, poverty and plague, hunger and pain.
Still, the sap is rising, again there is the resurrection of spring, and the continuing promise to us that God is with us always, with comfort and joy, if we will only ask.

Dorothy Day

When imagination is fired,
illuminations enlighten, with eyes rinsed clear,
that promised possibility of a peaceable future.

We are not the source of illumination,
yet our lives and longings provide a lens through which
light and love are refracted, reflected, re-directed.

In difficult times, visionaries emerge
to point out possibilities
below the horizon.

Prophets are not gifted with foresight,
but with insight to illustrate
what is needed and what might be.

Boldly calling out inequity and injustice,
they also call us together to address
suffering with bold creativity.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Just imagine grassroots communities everywhere
reshaping themselves around
the needs and gifts of the most vulnerable.

Even as we gasp for breath,
we can begin to imagine
what a peaceable world might just be like.

Compassionate creativity is urgently needed
in a world suffering
from a catastrophic failure of imagination.

What can you imagine?
joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT