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

Season of Kindness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

So, love your enemies,
do good, lend without expecting return
and you will be richly rewarded
as children of the Most Holy One
who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

Seeker,
In the face of so much loss and fear, how do we disrupt the cultivation of cruelty?

Winter bleakness bites at the edges;
nipping the nose,
gnawing at fingers and toes.

So we insulate, we withdraw–
wrapped tight and muffled–
in an attempt to dispel the cold.

The soul too
passes through seasons;
fresh, fiery and frigid,

as plague, pestilence, war
injustice and famine severe
create conditions conducive for fear.

There is no room for fear in love …

1 John 4:18

This year-long sickly season,
so stark and dark,
has harshed our words, has hollowed our hearts;

letting cruelty seep in
to sour friendship,
and exchange joy for gloating glee.

More dangerous still,
the twin bitters, grievance and spite,
have spiked prideful poisons with zealous vitriol.

What will it take
to disinfect, tender and thaw the sclerosis
of wanton desecrations, cold condemnation and callous law?

Have you not already been told what good is
and what the Holy One desires?
That you do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with God.

Micah 6:8

Behold the ancient antidote-solution
prescribed by Micah of Moresheth:
just-love, infused with a kindly, humble bearing.

For no manner of malice can prevail
in the company of compassion,
nor hint of hatred in that gracious glare.

And the only limit
to sanitizing love-light
lies in our limited capacity to receive and reflect.

Bridging justice and humility,
loving kindness reflects bright divine likeness
that illumines the path to wholeness.

Yet kindness begs admission;
a dose of truth-telling, to break the fever,
undam remorse, rinse the cruel infections of the deceiver.

Lead, kindly Light,
amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!

John Henry Newman

Divorced from kindly compassion,
how quickly justice devolves
into coercion.

Whether pious or political,
loveless blame-shame condemnations
of earth and her children are always unholy.

For the Holy One so loved the cosmos entire!

John 3:16

From intention, to thought, theology and agency,
may we excise with merciful precision
every trace of cruel judgment and mocking derision.

Thus, through honest kindness,
might we each find a way
to scatter seeds of merciful justice every day.

For God knows it is good to give;
We may not have so long to live,
So if we can,
Let’s do each day a kindly deed,
And stretch a hand to those in need,
Bird, beast or [hu]man.

Robert William Service

May the sting of disinfection awaken you
to welcome the long-awaited healing
heralded by a softer season of kindness.

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

Liquid Life

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

By the tenderest mercy of our Maker,
dawn from on high will break over us,
to enlighten all who sit in death’s dark shadow,
and guide our feet back to the ways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Living below
the flight path
of an air-freight world hub

invites regular rumbled interruptions
that shred nerves, rattle windows, and interfere
with conversations, as well as household electronics.

In early morning, at eventide
and into dead of night,
our neighborhood is rent with whining turbines

that defy gravity as they strain
to launch or land monstrous metal birds,
miraculously uplifted by invisible airy currents.

In pairs they arrive or depart,
roaring and tearing at the cloudy blue
as speedily they rise or slowly descend.

Low-flying and laden with treasures and trinkets,
they bear necessities,
along with niceties from ports unknown.

Like those harbor docklands of old,
our city is now a sky port
with an army of shippers and handlers

who toil day and night
to manipulate mountains
of the stuff that stuffs our overfilled lives.

And in the frenzied season of buying and gifting,
this frequent freight flying
reaches fevered pace.

The light shines in the darkness,
and darkness did not overcome it.

John1:5

These cold, stark days,
I sit on my porch and skyward stare,
as wordless breath mists chill air.

I wait and I watch
blinking white underbellies, wheels down,
pass low over trees and rooves.

No longer greeted by impatient frustration
and a rumbling undercurrent
of worried resentment,

these days, this rattling roar
resounds like death-defying thunder,
announcing from the heavens that hope is on the wing.

For cargo planes, now turned angelic,
are also pregnant with the possibility
of new liquid life.

In defiance of the typical detritus
of seasonal sentimentality,
these magnificent machines bear life-saving serum in their bellies.

So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Seamus Heaney

Each mechanical messenger
I greet like Gabriel or Hermes,
with a hopeful nod and the glimmer of a smile.

I call to mind our fearful, fragmented,
beleaguered human family,
brought low by viral load.

How long-awaited, this clear liquid life,
to shatter the shadow of pandemic
that once again, we might breathe easy.

But not quite yet!
For we are still plagued by pride,
and hubris humiliates us.

Disease also defines us,
as crisis unmasks systemic inequities,
along with vanities and vulnerabilities.

Pandemic pleads for new self-understanding;
a world repatterned around care for creatures
and health care for humankind.

Plague will not leave us
until we refuse to leave
any member of our human family behind.

Historically pandemics have forced humans
to break with the past and imagine their world anew.
This one is no different.
It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Arundhati Roy

May the hope that gilds the horizon
bring enlightenment, chase away cruelty
and heal hearts that mourn the cruel cost of living.

joe

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

Being Well

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

A house is divided against itself will not be able to stand.

Mark 3: 25

Each day, in tragic tones,
pandemic exposes a world completely intertwined;
your wellbeing inextricably tied to mine.

Healing cannot be reduced
to mere self-preservation;
saving the strong by abandoning the frail.

For plagues carry
lessons in their lesions
and wisdom within their wounds.

Though forced to isolate and shelter
behind masks and shields,
a disease of the whole human body calls for corporate care.

The miniscule might of viral particles,
like grains of sand in machinery,
arrests and infects our every movement, meeting and market.

Stealing breath from our bodies,
and loved ones from our lives,
plague unmasks inequities and exposes vulnerabilities.

Yet every blight brings unwelcomed blessings.
Pandemic, like climate change, is a natural response
that carries remedies not retribution.

Every crisis intervenes to force a pause,
redirect energy
and rectify behavior.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

Intractable problems
require a totally different tack
than merely attacking symptoms.

The road to restoration
must first arrive at truth
before realizing reconciliation.

Whether we are ready or not,
disease, death and social disintegration
make no accommodation or exception for willful ignorance.

Perhaps humble truth-telling takes hold
with the admission that we cannot return
to mean old ways and wayward means.

A change of direction,
a radical reorientation
is required to achieve the remedy for our “mal-addictions.”

The greatest, most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble …They can never be solved, but only outgrown.

Carl Jung

Global emergencies
present us with the hard reality
that our world house remains deeply divided.

The priceless pearl within COVID’s shell
is the gift of a common cause,
a rallying reason for a whole human response.

Such unifying consciousness lays bare
a truth buried by profiteers and personal prosperity preachers;
that all shall be well only when all the family is made well.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

Abraham Lincoln, 1858

If a tree falls and blocks the trail,
we can expend our energy
hacking at the obstacle, refusing to be redirected.

Or, we can simply forge another path;
choose a new
or long-forgotten way to wellbeing.

In autumnal glory
nature leaves us lessons
about living by letting go.

“Relinquish the old
to make way for the new!”
in golden splendor she schools.

“This way of being
you dearly hold,
for wellness sake, you must let go.”

The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living.

Jean-Pierre DeCassaude

Undoubtedly this involves
a tectonic shift in mindset.
But first, hearts must be made malleable.

We transform transactions into relationships
by naming and claiming
and falling back into an economy of care.

May you tap that well
of great-fullness within
to release a reservoir of resources,

if not for ourselves,
then for the wellbeing of our children
all and every one.

joe

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

Time to Mend

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

It is not the healthy who need healing, but those who are ill.
Go and learn this; ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’

Matthew 9:13-13

Seeker
What needs to mend to bring these difficult days to an end?

Now is the time to turn
every effort of mind and spirit
toward mending.

After all, healing starts to happen
the moment the blow is struck;
before bumps swell and bruises blossom.

At lightning speed,
our bodies release
endorphins to soften suffering;

platelets clot
around wounds
to staunch the flow;

cohorts of white cells
converge to consume infectious invaders,
as blisters bathe ruptured cells.

At every level,
our corporeal community
reflexively coordinates a concerted healing response.

No matter the intensity of injury—
though we may be traumatized—
our bodies diligently work for repair.

There is a time to tear and a time to mend.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Pandemic continually exposes
the essential truth
of our interwoven interdependence.

The entire body of humankind has fallen ill,
stricken by a disease
that contaminates our every “normal” operation.

Masked and gloved,
we dare not risk sharing a moist breath
or clasping a clammy hand,

nor can we coalesce around the frail,
to hug and hold
those who are hurting.

Now we come to appreciate
the necessary loving touches of community
for mental, physical, and moral wellbeing.

Far deeper than a gregarious nature;
it is only by “being with”
that we understand how to be human.

And there is such
sacramental soul force
in the mutuality of communal experience.

Wherever two or three gather in my name,
I am right there among them.

Matthew 18:20

Rapidly-reproducing
miniscule COVID particles
have already transformed life across our globe.

We cannot hope to contain a plague,
that affects hearts and minds as it infects bodies,
without learning its lessons.

Our greatest failure
may be failing to learn;
else this plague will overcome us.

Feigning invincibility
while disregarding great loss of life,
reflects only callous hubris and deadly folly.

It is always the right time to do the right thing

Martin Luther King Jr.

Just as a single cell cannot affect repair,
mending begins with the humble awareness that
it takes more than a village, a city, even the capacity of any nation alone.

It takes all of us,
pooling together
every resource of intellect, energy and will.

Perhaps the blessing of these diseased days
may be our eventual unanimity;
all humankind engaged in a common struggle.

We can build a beautiful city…
We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but truly mending
Brick by brick
Heart by heart
Now, maybe now
we start learning how.

Stephen Schwartz

Mending means more than developing a cure.
It reaches for universal repair—
reweaving our relationships to life.

Since love is both the ending
and the means
to mending,

may we embrace a new era:
a great convergence of the whole human body,
broken and mercifully blessed with a deep desire to mend.

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

Dorothy Day

joe

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