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

Homeward

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

How I have yearned to gather your children together
as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings!

Matthew 23:37

Seeker,
When you envision home, what and who comes to mind?

Subtle is the distinction
between “shelter” and “haven.”
The first a temporary shield, the other sounds like heaven.

You have been refuge to the poor,
haven to the distressed,
shelter from the storm and shade from the heat.

Isaiah 25:4

Offering more permanent anchorage,
haven desires to enfold;
providing safe harbor, a place to unburden.

For the tempest-tossed
any port or quay
signifies home.

Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

Augustine of Hippo

As pandemic prolongs,
we shift from sheltering
to being anchored at home.

So much more than a dwelling,
home evokes that communion
we call belonging.

Just as every vision
is limited by the frame we place around it,
so too is our perception of home.

The relief we seek is right under our feet…
If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth,
we will have enough love strength and awakening
to look after ourselves and the Earth so that both can thrive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Yet we are ever on the move.
Migratory by nature,
we harbor an ancient, nomadic heritage.

Wanderers and wonderers all,
our ache to belong lies at the heart
of our incessant questing and questioning.

Only fifty years ago,
intrepid space-age voyagers
looked past our moon to capture Earth rising.

Three decades later an orbiting telescope opened its eye
to our intergalactic neighborhood,
and expanded our home-scape.

Poised now at the brink,
all life on our planet
hangs in the balance.

Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Pope Francis

After a century
of abuse and neglect,
we have laid waste our holy habitat.

Along with living relations of every ilk,
we suffer the effects
of catastrophic home-sickness.

Across the planet entire,
millions seek shelter from violent injustice,
poverty, environmental disaster.

Fellow creatures flee firestorm,
exploitation, habitat devastation;
the harvest of our own nature deprivation

With wilderness under assault,
the indigenous curators of precious biodiversity
themselves face extinction.

Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We have lost our way home.
No longer do we calibrate our days
to earth’s seasons: seedtime, fruit and fallow.

Recovery begins with the subtlest shift
that turns home into haven,
bringing heaven back to earth.

Thus, in looking after neighbors,
we are on the lookout
for all great and small creatures in our care.

Once more can we revel
in the primal revelation
called Creation.

Be thou a guiding star above,
smooth path below,
kindly shepherd behind,
flame bright before us
this day, tonight,
forevermore.

Columba of Iona

As you attend to the stirrings within
and tend to life all around,
may you rejoice in the realization that you are already home.

As you hold open this haven,
may you know
the infinite depth and breadth of love abiding in you.

joe

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

Unlikeliness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

I tell you truly, whatever you did to one of the least of these [insert label here] members of my family, you did to me.

Matthew 25:40

I cherish a faded remembrance
of my three-year-old daughter
scribbling on scrap paper with crayons.

Openmouthed with excitement,
proudly she presented
her handiwork:

a wrinkled sheet
that bore a stick-legged rendering
in pastel lines blue and pink.

With unabashed ebullience,
she described
her picture of God;

careful to point out
the curls, pink dress, high heels, handbag,
and painted fingernails that adorned her icon.

The sea is in love with the drop
the sun in love with the candle

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

And have we not always imaged
the Eternal
draped in our likes and likeness?

After all, are we not
born of the same Source
as spiders and sea anemones;

formed of that same spiraling substance
as fungi and algae,
nematodes and narwhals?

Inside and out,
are we not all likenesses of Love,
enfleshed and inspirited but briefly?

Diminishing biodiversity is the result of diminishing kindness.

Satish Kumar

If BEING begets diversity—
limitless variations
on a limited set of notes—

why elevate a singular theme,
reduce imagining
to one particular preference and partial semblance?

Why not decorate the Ineffable
with varnished fingernails, envision the Sacred as flyer,
swimmer, or that liquid love we call water?

Only presumption would restrict Mystery
to human molding, predominantly pallid hues,
chiseled masculine contours.

Idolizing some selves
offers homage to certain look-alikes,
paying tribute to diabolical dominance and supremacy.

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined [the divine] as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

And if we cannot shape a world
that reverences all manner of human-kin—
Christ clad in black, and brown, and beige skin—

how on earth can we revere
Love that lives beneath fur and scales;
resides within emerald leaves, sweeps above mountain trails?

Contemplating the make-up of material
makes clear that matter, like energy,
is transformed not destroyed:

changed in form,
no thing in universe
is rejected outright.

The only way we can ever be human is together
The only way we can be free is together.

Desmond Tutu

Can we reflect Love that
does not dominate, cannot coerce,
refuses to reject?

Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

Gerard Manley Hopkins

When we fashion
networks of relationships and resources
exclusively engineered,

designed to deny the dignity of any
to privilege some,
we lose track of justice— Love that restores.

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many.

Mary Oliver

Let us look, and look again, for Christ-likeness—
body and blood, soul and spirit—imaged in unlikely places and faces,
and see Love-light refracted in each member of one expansive family.

I tell you truly, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these [insert label here], you refused to do for me.

Matthew 25:45

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
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A NEW 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

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Benediction

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020


Bless those who curse you, pray for the ones who mistreat you.

Luke 6:28

Three decades past,
I was blessed to be among fisherfolk
by the banks of Amazon.

Regularly, I found myself surrounded
by swarming clouds
of chattering children.

“Me dê uma benção!Give me a blessing!”
they begged and beamed,
as they clambered all over me.

Putting palm to each holy head,
I extended the expected benediction:
“Abençoado! – Blessed be you!”

So frail in the face of so many challenges,
I wondered about their future
as I willed and worried and prayed for wellbeing.

Even after all the years,
I can recall their shining faces and joyful voices.
And echoing that benison, still I wonder what became of them.

That singular command
I do not understand,
Bless what there is for being,
Which has to be obeyed, for
What else am I made for … ?

W. H. Auden

In the end, how we respond
to the momentous challenges of this time
will determine who and what will endure.

When cursing, we careen down a slippery slope,
till, head over heart in tumbled-down rancor,
we are left with bruises that add ignominy to animosity.

But blessing is the fulcrum between blight and beauty,
since those who know their blessedness
bring benediction to our holy mess.

Blessing transforms
the sub-stance (under-being) of our experience
with under-standing.

Choosing benediction – to speak well –
cannot make any one or thing
any more holy than it already is.

In blessing we buff for shining display
what is already sacred,
and somehow this changes everything.

Such blessing power, given us all,
presents us with the luminous authority
to re-consecrate whatsoever has been desecrated.

Blessed the clear-hearted who see the Holy One (in everyone and everything).

Matthew 5:8

In unsettled times,
Jesus preaches scandalous subversion
that goes against the grain of meritocracy.

Unmasking myopia, with penetrating perspective,
he presents a corrective
to sharpen our seeing and brighten our holy being.

Because you are simple, humble and mourning,
peace-loving, justice-hungry, lost or forsaken;
you are welcome; you are already holy; you are blessed.

Blessed too are you who are targeted
because you stand,
sullied with the exploited of the earth.

Blessing simply gives voice
and intention
to our deepest motivation.

And we become beatitudes
by welcoming these benedictions
and extending them broadly.

Beneath that look
behind those eyes
benevolence in abundance lies.

Have you beheld
the blessed gaze
that pierces pain-filled, hateful haze?

To gild each hurt and hope in life
such power to you is given,
dissolving loss back into love with that gracious glare of heaven.

joe

May you be moved
to transfigure the substance of daily experience
by blessing whatever graces your gaze.

So fragile the petal the earth, as fragile as love.

Mira

As you cast a caring eye across your life-scape,
squint if you must to see love’s golden hue
reflected in strangers and friends and enemies too.

Choose to burnish the good
and put a shine
on these tarnished times.

Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

So, while there is breath within
and a sparkle in your eye,
waste not this fleeting chance

to let the weary world know
just how much in love with life you are,
just how blessed it is to be here together with You.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com

A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT