Darkly Delighted

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

By tender mercies divine, dawn breaks over us from on high,
to illumine all who inhabit darkness and death’s shadow
and guide our footsteps to pathways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Seeker,
How do you welcome the dawning of new beginnings?

With fresh fires and Christmas lights,
those darkest days of the rolling year we mark,
to remember how everything starts in the dark.

Darker days carry danger and alienation
yet dakness also draws us together;
a time for dimming headlights so stars might find us.

Losing track of stars and seasons, we may
have robbed our children of awe-inspiring nocturnal
illustrations of spangled infinity and lunar regularity.
Disconnected and dissociated, we risk a self-infatuated
existence that leaves us at the mercy of our own
devices, far beyond the reach of the lowly wisdom
accessible only in the shadowy, disturbing delights of
essential darkness.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

This season of birth pangs and beginnings,
offers occasion to look lovingly back
over a year of gifts, of losses and of lessons.

Pained by opportunities missed,
and the violations of life and lifestyles,
still, we give abundant thanks.

With humility we acknowledge
failure to imagine more compassionate alternatives
in the brief brilliance of our existence.

Expectations

Tied together
are we
by hope
that is only ours to share.

In dark times,
senses hone and heighten.
readied for dread,
steadied for surprise.

Such happenings
we call breaking news
because they tell
of something breaking down or broken free.

There is gift between
these newly disturbing lines,
though rake for it, we must,
to unwrap its layers of burden.

Thus, we learn by living
to heed our fears,
so we are no longer
led by them.

Questioning each answer,
we listen a little longer
for wisdom deeper
echoing an older hoped-for promise
that we can indeed
rewire the tired workings
of this wan and weary world.

Wisdom and hope in tandem appear
when we coalesce,
panged and hungry, devoid of solutions,
discontented by fixes.

In necessary darkness we perceive
inconspicuous constellations,
trillions of tiny loving kindnesses,
whispered blessings, quiet, impassioned petitions,
conspiring about a better world
forever in the re-making.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When humbly we realize
we don’t know where to go,
we are ready to be led into brighter days.

For those who seek the Spirit of Peace
abide in the tension between grief for all that is lost and never can be,
and gratitude for all that is given, an abundance of possibility.

We live in the fullness of time.
Every moment is God’s own good time, God’s kairos.
The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer
a chance to realize that we have what we seek.
We don’t have to rush after it.
It was there all the time and if we give it time,
it will make itself known to us.

Thomas Merton

May this new season lead you to dream and scheme,
starting with gratitude, softened by sorrows,
and sparked by longed for restoration.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here.

Scratchings invites one to explore a world of meaning delving deep beyond the surface to something truly human, truly spirit, truly personal. Challenged to ask the hard, difficult questions, the ones that come when you are deep in silence, or tending a garden, I found that Scratchings takes you on a path not necessarily where you will find the answers but to a profound engagement in the on-going and evolving search for truth. Your own. Touching a yesterday that opens gently into a tomorrow. A safe place to remember. A wonderful place to Dream.

  • Sr. Sue Scharfenberger, osu, Lima, Peru.

A Season of Healing

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2021

That evening they brought many demon-possessed people
and with a word he cast out spirits, curing all of illness,
thus fulfilling the prophet’s vision of one who
took on our infirmities and bore our disease.

Matthew 8:16-17

Seeker,
Who in your life is crying out to be heeded, held, and healed?

To erect a barrier,
or construct a divide
takes the effort of just one side.

But building a bridge will always require
foundations of trust
that both sides desire.

All who work with prophetic purpose
must avoid the twin entrapments;
corrosive cynicism and coercive self-righteousness.

Desire for retribution,
no matter how justified its claim,
unleashes diabolical profanities of blame and shame.

Conceding our commonalities,
receding to white-black boundaries,
steals space for understanding, depletes oxygen for dialogue.

To deny any possibility of restoration
only reinforces divisive systems that fail
to acknowledge complicity, and reverence connection and care.

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

Carl Gustav Jung

Where might we sow the seeds of relationship,
to sprout and surprise us with listening hearts,
sheaves of shared sorrows, and the salve of outstretched hands?

The trajectory of Spirit, like radiant sunshine,
thrusts fearlessly outward into the dark void,
reaching for communion, wholeness, generous inclusion.

But we cannot envision what we do not see,
we will not heed what we cannot hear,
till we hone the healing arts of love.

Companioning
Lean close to listen
until heartbeats harmonize
and spirit song rhymes.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Radical resolution lies
in looking harder, listening longer,
with hearts attuned to woe and wonder.

To outgrow the confines
of all we think we know,
we must plow the furrows of longing and loss.

Those willing to live
and love with abandon,
will surely know the sting of alienation.

Boundary Breaker
Lives are hemmed by lines.
“Thou shalt not cross!” say the signs,
crossings lead to fines.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

For we cannot splice spirituality
from humanity’s deepest cravings
and darkest inclinations.

As you embrace these days with contemplative care,
may you feel, in your bones, hurts and hungers
you can never fully understand.

Even as you savor sweet unanimity,
may you recoil at the bitterness
of discrimination and isolation.

Liberated to lovingly listen,
may your eyes widen to every unfreedom;
slavery, addiction, exploitation.

We begin
the new habit, getting up glad
for a thousand years of healing.

Susa Silvermarie

May your yearning for peace of heart
illumine the failures of war
and daily desecrations of violence.

Longing to belong, may your hospital home
welcome fellow pilgrims guised as foreigners,
migrants, exiles without refuge or shelter.

May this thankful season inoculate you
with the warmth of humble great-fullness,
leaving room at your table for the surprise of healing.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here.

Joe Grant is a seer and a sayer, a prophet and a poet. He divines the divine in the everyday stuff of life and speaks the essential truth that every place can be a thin place, every time Kairos time. Scratchings is Joe at his alliterative best, offering us a beautiful sacramental vision in which Spirit weaves us into a great, timeless community with each other and with the more-than-human world. This quiet, gentle, but powerful book is absolutely necessary medicine for our troubled times.

  • Kyle Kramer, Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)

Table Setting

Photo and text © Joe Grant 2021

When you give a banquet, invite the people who are poor, broken, blind …

Luke 14:13

Seeker,
How do we live authentically in such divisive times?

When they were small,
our children would clamber onto our laps
each time we gathered at table.

Every conflict,
whether familial or foreign,
inevitably leads to a table.

Sooner or later
factions and fighters
convene at this woody altar.

In our mindful moments,
we set a table in the round,
holding souls open, ripe and available.

Here we leave space for unexpected guests—
wisdom, awareness, perspective—
to sit with us.

Stirring Silence
I dare not erase disquiet.
Struggles and sorrows
are not just background noise.

Aches, hopes, hurts,
gritty and global,
that always appear
are not a side-show I can choose to ignore.

For love is also a verb;
momentum to disturb complacency,
passion that pains,
burning as it heals …

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Receptive prayer
does not permit
tuning-out

but leans in,
to let in
life’s swelling symphony,

from birdsong to train horns,
sirens to serenades, protests to gunshots,
verbal disputes to quiet kisses.

In the Maker’s magnanimous lap,
whether troubled or tender,
both welcome and table are wide.

Here and now we can be,
the beloved community,
There is room at the table for everyone.

Carrie Newcomer

At its core,
contemplative living presents
the disturbing paradox of restful unease.

Settling into stillness,
ready and reachable,
we become hospital to grievance as well as glory.

Companioning
Lean close to listen
until heartbeats harmonize
and spirit song rhyme
s.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Awaken to those awaiting relief
in the wake of earthquake or storm,
or huddled in flickering candlelight after another massacre.

Listen to wails and worries of parents and children
facing illness and loss,
violent attack or repressive force.

Visualize yearnings for peace,
etched on faces
from every faith and holy land.

Here do we attend
to crisis and cries from creature kin,
across our tortured planet home.

And adding or opening new leaves,
we stretch the surface capacity
so all can hear what it takes to care.

In communion and commotion,
in celebration and reconciliation,
may we keep setting that table.

Companions cannot afford
to accept violations
as inevitable.

Just as we carry within
some fragment of discord and turmoil,
so too we bear some measure of tenderness:

listening hearts,
inclined to the torment and tears
of families dear, scattered afar and gathered near.

Don’t hide, don’t run,
but rather discover,
in the midst of fragmentation,
a new way forward:
a different kind of journey
marked by its fragility, uncertainty, and lack of definition.
And on that path
to hold these hands
that even in their brokenness create a new tomorrow.

Peter Millar

So, as you in silence sit
to weep and wonder,
set a place for unexpected visitors.

Windsong
Tickled by a breeze,
solemn chimes softly chuckle
discord to concord.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Crack the door at your core,
let that wilder spirit sweep in
who turns all strangers back to kin.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

Joe Grant is a seer and a sayer, a prophet and a poet. He divines the divine in the everyday stuff of life and speaks the essential truth that every place can be a thin place, every time Kairos time. Scratchings is Joe at his alliterative best, offering us a beautiful sacramental vision in which Spirit weaves us into a great, timeless community with each other and with the more-than-human world. This quiet, gentle, but powerful book is absolutely necessary medicine for our troubled times.

  • Kyle Kramer, Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)