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

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Embers of Wisdom, Glimmers of Hope

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

You are light for this world.
A city built on a hillside cannot hide.
Nobody lights a lamp to put it under cover, but places it on a stand
to share its light with all in the household.

Matthew 5:14-15

When this darkness dispels
as all darkness eventually does,
we will emerge into a quite different world, thanks be to Thee!

For the culture that helped cultivate
the terrors of today
is not capable of truly dispelling them.

Lacking care and cohesion,
fractured interests and segregated systems,
fail to rouse, respond, reassure and inspire radical compassion.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. William L. Watkinson

So, it falls upon each of us to kindle love’s light;
to quietly take the initiative presented by necessity,
and boldly don the mantle of moral leadership in critical times.

How we creatively and carefully respond,
even in forced isolation,
will define the kinds of people and communities that emerge.

This broken world is in our hands.
There is wisdom here to be mined,
lessons to learn, questions to pursue in the school of shared suffering.

This period of painful separation
invites us, in homes, towns and cities, to listen hard and long,
and pay our dues of attention to needs and neighbors.

In the crucible much is melted.
Molds must be made to forge,
shape and hold new ways of being human together.

In the fevered firelight
cruel lessons are revealed
teaching us just how interwoven we are with each and every other.

Share your experience with others.
Share joys and double them.
Share pain and cut it in half.

David Steindl-Rast

Plagues present paradigms. Pandemic need not lead to pandemonium.
In its wake we can awaken and respond
with a contagion of kindness and demands for just systems.

We live by hope that is ours to share.
In dark times our senses heighten.
We keep our eyes peeled, ready to be surprised.

There is a gift between
the lines of the news,
but we will have to dig for it.

We heed our fears, so we are not led by them.
We listen longer for deeper wisdom
that glows with hopeful promise that we can rewire this world.

For wisdom and hope appear
when we are sorely seeking and hungry,
devoid of easy answers or quick fixes.

Only in the dark do we perceive
the constellation of a trillion tiny acts of kindness,
countless blessings, heartfelt petitions.

Consider the heroism of everyday workers,
beacons of the human spirit who step into the dark
to guarantee light, food, health care, security.

As events unfold, in ways we cannot fathom,
we walk by faith, not knowing.
Since our story is not yet written, we look ahead for pathfinders.

And you are the spark that ignites a flickering lamp and lets us see again,
face to face, the holy light reflected in every other.
Since we are not abandoned, we must refuse to abandon one another.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.

Scottish Blessing

joe

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A Quality of Presence

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

He was at prayer in a certain place,
and when he finished, one of the disciples asked,
“Master, teach us to pray…”
Luke 11:1

Seeker,
Has anyone ever asked, “How are you being?”

Though “doing nothing” and “being busy”
may seem contradictory in essence,
they each describe a certain quality of presence.

A vague memory
stirs of early
school days,

when our overwrought teacher
sought to educate us
on verbs and nouns.

“Verbs,” she extolled,
“are ‘doing words’.
They tell about something we can DO.”

Offering a few examples,
she tasked her eager pupils
to make lists of ‘doing words’.

Quickly, I exhausted those activities
that easily stream into a young mind;
“running, fishing, playing …”,

till I was arrested, mid-flow,
by a conundrum:
Is ‘being’ a ‘doing word’?

For the first time,
I witnessed hesitation in my teacher as,
unselfconsciously, I shared my simple query.

Blissfully unaware
of philosophical ramifications,
I was merely interested in one more word for my list.

“Yes, ‘being’ is a verb,” she asserted.
“But it doesn’t tell about WHAT we are doing.
It tells us HOW we are doing … the way we do something.”

We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God,
who regards not the greatness of the work,
but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence

It is helpful
to keep in mind
how we have named ourselves.

Human beings,
are ‘BE-ers’ who can DO,
not only ‘DO-ers’ who can also BE.

Nor are being and doing
ever mutually exclusive.
There is always , in both, a quality of presence that bears attention.

No matter where we place our self,
we bring with us a state of mind and heart
that extends some degree of engagement.

How and how deeply
we choose to relate and connect
determines our action and the way we are affected.

Where can I escape your spirit
or flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

Wherever I am, You are already there!
Praying, it seems, is a ‘being word’;
a way of being present and engaged.

Whether in the infinite experience of mountain-top amazement
or awe-filled intimacy of the vale of shadow and pain,
prayerfulness invites a quality of presence and attention.

Whenever we fall – body, mind, soul –
into un-self-conscious presence, we become receptive
of the raw reality of being in presence engaged.

Whether walking, washing dishes, tending to garden or neighbor,
when we set the heart a-wondering,
the soul will surely seek out connection.

This quality of being prayerfully engaged
may be practiced
but not programmed.

If I have faith enough to move mountains but I am lacking love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

But, if we fixate on the mechanics of meditation,
‘doing it right’, or the correctness of our ideas, ‘being right,’
prayers and presumptions prevent us being in loving relationship.

No wonder the Teacher
avoided offering pupils
a method on which to hang the properties of prayerful engagement.

Christ above us, beneath us,
beside us, within us,
what need have we for temples made with hands?
George MacLeod

Rather, the Master modeled
prayerful attention and waited
for the hunger to present itself.

Helping hands are better than praying lips. Mother Teresa

In your rising and laying down,
may you let that quality of Omnipresence
envelop, assail and inspire you to engagement.

joe

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Pilgrim Heart

Photo Joe Grant @ 2020

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next I must be on my way… Luke 13:33

Seeker,
What is it you are looking for, and where has it taken you?

A tale is told
of a lad who lived
by the bonnie banks of a highland loch.

On rare sundrenched mornings
when the misty veil lifted, he noticed,
along the farther shore, light sparkling on distant windows.

He dreamed up a wondrous place—
a whitewashed cottage
nestled among the heather at the foot of a glen.

And he yearned to undertake
the long trek around the loch
to visit that magical place and discover who lived therein.

So, he rose before midsummer dawn,
when light lasted longest,
to set out on his quest.

It was evening when at last
he rounded the shore and, in the gloaming
glimpsed a humble home not unlike his own.

From the upper window
a young lass
called out her greeting,

as she pointed
to the faraway head of the loch and lilted:
‘See that light, how lovely must it be there.’

Following her gaze,
his eyes fell upon the windows of his far-flung home,
that captured the amber glow of the dying day.

‘Aye,’ he nodded,
‘surely it is a holy place.’
And turned his face homeward.

When the Spirit makes thin the canvas
we see that the universe is a creation.
Gwenallt Jones

Whether we know it or not,
we are
always travelling.

Even standing still,
sojourners and voyagers all are we,
on a pilgrim planet adrift in a cosmic sea.

No matter where
we lay roots down,
still we ache for home unfound.

There is no such beauty
As where you belong.
Rise up, follow me
I will lead you home.
Stephen Paulus

And who has not felt that pang
we named ‘nostalgia’—
pain for a place long past.

Between questing and resting,
our hearts reach for places
not quite familiar but longed for and loved.

The goal of spirituality is homecoming. John O’Donohue

The draw of seasons
and celestial cycles
urges creatures, in migrating millions, to move.

And, as perennial nomads,
we too feel a lust to wander and explore
landscapes wild, within us and behind each horizon.

Like the cries of geese on the wing,
the lament of exiled, refugee, migrant and homeless souls
whets our ache for homeland.

Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee. Augustine of Hippo

The meandering path
of pilgrimage leads us
to leave and to leave behind;

a quest that begs questions:
What are we walking away from?
What are moving toward?

The only true voyage of discovery,
the only fountain of Eternal Youth,
would be not to visit strange lands
but to possess other eyes…
Marcel Proust

Weaving inner labyrinths,
walking ancient paths, seeking sacred centering,
pilgrims depart hoping to return renewed,

so that in homecoming
they might look lovingly upon the familiar
with vision restored.

The compassing of the God of life upon thee
The compassing of the Christ of love upon thee
The compassing of the Spirit of grace upon thee.
The compassing of the Three preserve thee.
Carmina Gadelica

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
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A New Book by Joe Grant


Original Likeness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
Yet not a single one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.
Luke 12: 6

Seeker,
Have you opened your eyes to catch that Holy Likeness looking back?

Above the grocery lot my eyes were lifted,
beyond the monotony of morning, to steely skies
by an arrowhead of cranes, splicing frigid air with their antiphonal cries.

For some minutes I watched this wonderous wave
ripple high overhead with undulating grace
and shower us abundantly with warbled crooning.

The skies declare the grandeur of the One
whose handiwork is heralded across the heavens.

Psalm 19:1

Inspired by this early benediction,
I scoured ranks of cars for muffled pedestrians
who had likewise been touched by this seasonal visitation.

None it seemed had noticed
or cared enough to raise their gaze
from the transactions of the marketplace.

At once an acute hollowness sunk in
as a cascade of separateness
splintered and severed the filigree holding all together.

The day re-turned to tasking and foraging,
and those winged pilgrims, trilling angels from on high,
were replaced by the pinging of electronic scanners.

The earth is a living thing. Mountains speak, trees sing, lakes can think, pebbles have soul, rocks have power. Henry Crow Dog

In years past, an art teacher
challenged our class, seated around an aged oak,
to draw all we could see; everything but that ancient tree.

So, we sketched the worlds in-between
limbs, twigs and branches,
and along the ragged edges of trunk and leaves.

By lesson’s end
we beheld variations of an invisible web;
a network holding the whole world together.

“Do you see?” she taught.
“No thing can exist in isolation. Anything and everything
can only be understood and truly represented in connection.”

Where could I escape your spirit or flee your presence?
Should I rise up to the heavens, there you are;
or make my bed in the darkest depths, still you are there.
If I catch the wings of morning to the farthest limits of sea,
even there would your hand guide me, tightly upheld.

Psalm 139:7-10

In the shimmering mirror of morning any curious soul
with insight might perceive myriad reflections
of the Hub that pulls us into oneness.

From our perch along the Milky Way
we can gaze into jeweled infinity
and, in this dark hall of mirrors, bask in original likeness.

Delighting in the blue-green world of Nature’s abundance,
we can choose to celebrate as we commune miraculously
with the ‘likes of us’: our swimming, flying, galloping, crawling cousins.

It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down upon it like a god. It is more than blasphemy it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all— but we can become something less than human with frightening ease. Nora K. Jemisin

Should we risk a look into the light-reflected
in the eyes of neighbors, foe and friend, and allow boundaries to blur,
we might just glimpse our likeness staring back.

May you revel in primal connectivity
and wink at the look-a-likeness gaping back
in the river of relations.

joe

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

Now available: A New Book by Joe Grant

https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace

Awe-Inclined

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Amazement seized them all and, filled with awe, they glorified the Holy One.
Luke 5:26

Seeker, How often are you awe-inspired?

Deluged by the misery and marvel of being alive,
the awake ones are awe-filled folk.
That’s how we can tell who’s slumbering and who’s actually ‘woke’.

When we let life touch or tear at our hearts,
like a cold shower astonishment assails us,
stealing our breath.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed. Abraham Heschel

Awe is the fruit
of a daring decision
to unwrap the fullness of the present.

Though originally it describes dread,
applied to the unknowable, awe evokes reverence;
trepidation that honors realities beyond our ken.

Such bone-deep awareness
of the mystery of being alive,
inoculates us from prideful presumption.

Let the whole earth fear the Holy One;
and all the world’s inhabitants stand in awe.
Psalm 33:8

Wonder, that blossoms as astonishment,
ripens into awe when hearts are humbled
by the revelation of our smallness.

In awe we are intimidated
by the fathomless breadth
at the Source of All That Is.

Putting us in our place,
awe resizes us from supersize,
to minimize, to magnanimous.

Fear of the Holy is where wisdom begins. Proverbs 9:10

There is electricity to awe.
In the end, ‘holy fear’ is the result
of a freshly charged perspective on the depth of our unknowing.

Awe-filled moments are apertures;
glimpses of the layers of love, pain and connection
accessible to any who care enough to pay attention.

Being thunderstruck awakens us.
Being awestruck silences us.
Being grateful liberates us to unblock the free flow of goodness.

Again and again
Some people wake up.
They have no ground in the crowd
And they emerge according to broader laws.
They carry strange customs with them,
And demand room for bold gestures.
The future speaks ruthlessly through them.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Without reverence we are reckless,
without fear we are foolish, without awe
we are blind to the bountiful Source of all good gifts.

As we learn
how to listen to our fears
we are no longer limited by them.

And when awe is allowed in,
there is no such thing as ordinary;
every encounter is en-spirited; every thing feels near and dear.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.
Abraham Heschel

When ‘aweless’ we are likely to become lawless;
liable to desecrate
life and lives we barely understand.

But, with a quiver of vulnerability,
barefoot, awe approaches the Mystery
at the burning heart of it all.

Science can open a window to wonder
when ‘did you know?’ becomes ‘are you amazed?’;
as ‘how?’ begs ‘why?’ and eventually ‘whom?’

May you become awe-inclined,
with amazement your motivation;
reverently holding up each relationship in blessed consecration.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now Available: A New Book by Joe Grant


https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace