Cost-Benefit Paralysis

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Love the Holy One wholeheartedly, soulfully, strongly, mindfully;
and your neighbor as dearly as yourself.

Luke 10:27

Seeker,
How do you weigh the cost of living with the price of loving?

Pandemic unmasks,
with the stark reflection of a cracked mirror,
our shared visage, in fragmented distortion.

‘O look, look in the mirror
‘O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

W. H. Auden

As we succumb to the grave demands
and debilitations of protracted isolation,
we weigh the consequences of activities with inaction.

A dangerous calculus, dangled before us,
presents the gruesome false equivalence
between wealth and worth; profit and people.

The vacuum of moral leadership,
abandons us to less-caring calculations
about whom and how many must die for the freedom to sell and buy.

But there is another approach
that invites nations and neighbors to safeguard vulnerability
by sharing from the commons of human and material resource.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart
.

W.H. Auden

Trying times test our humanity as well as our faith.
While we ponder where and when it all might end,
it helps to keep our eyes fixed

on the ubiquitous wounded One;
catalyst of contradiction,
who is both masked and intubated; healer and helped.

This Christ who abides within and in between,
spans the chasm between market and ministry
with compassionate self-giving.

Christ the protester,
wielding a sign.
Christ the policeman, standing in line.

Christ well-remembered,
Christ we’ve forgotten.
Christ you are blessed, and how you are broken!

Christ of compassion,
the ever-forgiver,
peacemaker, cheek-turner, merciful river.

Christ so close,
Christ so dear,
how dare we not see you, when you are so near?

Excerpted from Still In the Storm by Joe Grant

Thus, the fierce love of Maker is expressed
as passionate concern
for the most maligned and mistreated; without exception.

For only the compass of compassion
can reorient us
and chart a course to fuller, wider living.

Discounting, distracting and misdirecting,
either in piety or politics,
devalues dignity in search of justification.

Seeking to be justified by Jesus, the lawyer asked,
‘And who is my neighbor?’

Luke 10:29

Since crisis also presents opportunity, always we must ask:
What is the cost of loving? Who benefits?
Who ends up paying the price for so much suffering?

And carefully we listen
for courageous, radical inclusion,
as we steer clear of amoral profiteering and prophet-less preaching.

The real tragedy would be if we come through the pandemic without changing for the better.
It would be as if all those deaths, all that suffering … would mean nothing.

Ben Okri

Beyond social analysis and moral paralysis,
may we surrender to the humble power of kenosis—
self-outpouring that restores “benefit” from a privilege to making good.

Especially in dark times, even behind closed doors,
we do not scheme
about going back-wards.

We kindle flickering hope
and dream a softer, slower, simpler, gentler,
more generous world into being.

joe

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

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


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

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