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

The Blessing Way

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

And Mary sang:
My innermost being magnifies the Most High,
my spirit rejoices in the One who heals,
who has lovingly looked upon the lowliest of servants.
From now on, all generations will call me blessed …
Luke 1:46-48

What might it mean to be blessed and to be a blessing?

Years ago, while overseeing intake
at a women’s shelter on a frigid Chicago night,
I broke the chilling news that there was no more room.

Painfully, I instructed
the waiting line
to seek warmth elsewhere.

When offering direction to a bundled woman,
she extended an icy hand,
exuded a warm smile and thanked me.

With unexpected calm,
she addressed my distress
by declaring: ‘It’s alright, not to worry, I am blessed!’

Bemused and disturbed,
I watched her shamble off,
down the windswept city street.

With nowhere to lay her head, how can she be blessed?
While daily, I am undone by mundane frustrations,
she, with just cause for indignation, chose to bless.

The Beatitudes are a set of descriptions of a free life … When you can weep, when you can identify with the little ones, when you can make peace, when you can be persecuted and still be joyful; then you’re doing it right. Richard Rohr

Among the oft-quoted, least heeded of Jesus’ teachings,
the Beatitudes describe poor, grieving, gentle, forgiving, clear-hearted,
justice-minded, peaceable, persecuted folk as the blessed ones.

Such wisdom upends our understanding
of what it usually means to be graced
blessed, lucky, fortunate, charmed, happy.

Driving home his disconcerting doctrine,
Jesus added the mandate to bless all who curse us
and love any who would call us ‘enemy’.

Can we place ourselves among that tribe of poor,
mourning, meek, merciful, peace and justice-hungry people?
If not, we may be looking for another brand of benediction.

The blessed are not the sure, sinless, successful, or well-liked;
but the little ones who live and love out of a foundational sense
of complete interdependence we call grace.

Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Blessing expresses both our motivation and life-orientation.
When we bless, we are not making holy.
We are simply declaring what is already, always sacred.

There is much in life we cannot alter;
brutality and hatreds that tear us apart, and pains we cannot take away.
Still, we can choose to bless, come what may!

This blessing power is a love-force, available to all,
and capable of transforming how we perceive
receive and relate to whatever comes our way.

Blessed child of earth and sky,
your life is precious, holy, always sacred,
and so is every other.

Only those who know their blessedness
can be a blessing to others.
So, blessed child of the Holy One, may you live up to your name,

joe
Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Now available: A New Book by Joe Grant

Ever Ready

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Be dressed and ready with your lamps lit. Luke 12:35

Seeker,
What do you need to put down in order to be ready to receive?

In contrast to drowsy relaxation,
contemplation is readiness in its heightened state,
as in: Ready! Steady! Wait!

For, in any given moment,
grace makes an unassuming appearance
should you be quietly alert, poised and ready to receive her.

Such attentiveness
allows prayer to blossom into undivided presence—
being ‘now’ and nowhere else.

Here wonder erupts and sweetly ripens—
fruit of radical hospitality—
into that eager desire to unwrap the surprising present.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
Absolute unmixed attention is prayer.
Simone Weil

Stooping to examine the fruits of presence
leads to grounded living—
being intently focused and wholly here:

captivated by majesty
devastated by tragedy, inspired by miracles,
moved by mystery.

My heart is ready, Holy One, ready is my heart;
I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul!

Psalm 108

As awareness deepens,
we reach out to be touched
and the saturated moment overflows into blessing.

Benediction broadens
when hearts stretch and minds open,
allowing generous kinship to widen.

All things are ready, if our minds be so. William Shakespeare, Henry V

When abundance peaks
through this gracious embrace of life
we enter the sanctuary of awe.

Now, reverence weaves a silence
that melts into gratitude,
uncapping an infinite well of great fullness.

And gratefulness is just the prelude to joy.
No joy without gratitude.
This surest sign of Presence cannot be manufactured.

I will give thanks to you, Holy One, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to You among the nations.

Psalm 108:1-3

Innate inquisitiveness beckons us to look more deeply,
to savor and connect with life,
which further fuels amazement.

Such curiosity—caring enough to inquire—
is a natural trait of children, whose ready openheartedness
earns them primacy in the Realm of the Reachable.

‘I tell you truly, whoever does not receive God’s Realm like a little child will never enter it.’ And he embraced them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16

On the other hand, disassociated living—
conceding to the rote and routine of acting and reacting—
is soul-sleeping sickness.

Relentlessly cruising from task to task—
reaching for the next, bypassing the now—
life over-washes yet fails to rouse us.

There are multiple realities surrounding me
and I know that I must keep the eyes of my heart open
to allow all of existence to be.
Catherine Garland

Even a scintilla of presence
can draw the heart’s inquisitive eye
and spark wakefulness.

…for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says, ‘Awake sleeper! Arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Ephesians 5:14

How light to be enlightened!
We need only to let down our guard,
open our eyes and let in delight.

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram: @InTheStormStill

Coming in November 2019, A New Book by Joe Grant

Wandering and Welcome: Meditations for Finding Peace Pre-Order Set For Release On 11/12/2019 12:00:00 AM
To pre-order: 
https://shop.franciscanmedia.org/products/wandering-and-welcome-meditations-for-finding-peace-pre-order-set-for-release-on-11-12-2019-12-00-00-am