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

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