Season of Kindness

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

So, love your enemies,
do good, lend without expecting return
and you will be richly rewarded
as children of the Most Holy One
who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

Seeker,
In the face of so much loss and fear, how do we disrupt the cultivation of cruelty?

Winter bleakness bites at the edges;
nipping the nose,
gnawing at fingers and toes.

So we insulate, we withdraw–
wrapped tight and muffled–
in an attempt to dispel the cold.

The soul too
passes through seasons;
fresh, fiery and frigid,

as plague, pestilence, war
injustice and famine severe
create conditions conducive for fear.

There is no room for fear in love …

1 John 4:18

This year-long sickly season,
so stark and dark,
has harshed our words, has hollowed our hearts;

letting cruelty seep in
to sour friendship,
and exchange joy for gloating glee.

More dangerous still,
the twin bitters, grievance and spite,
have spiked prideful poisons with zealous vitriol.

What will it take
to disinfect, tender and thaw the sclerosis
of wanton desecrations, cold condemnation and callous law?

Have you not already been told what good is
and what the Holy One desires?
That you do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with God.

Micah 6:8

Behold the ancient antidote-solution
prescribed by Micah of Moresheth:
just-love, infused with a kindly, humble bearing.

For no manner of malice can prevail
in the company of compassion,
nor hint of hatred in that gracious glare.

And the only limit
to sanitizing love-light
lies in our limited capacity to receive and reflect.

Bridging justice and humility,
loving kindness reflects bright divine likeness
that illumines the path to wholeness.

Yet kindness begs admission;
a dose of truth-telling, to break the fever,
undam remorse, rinse the cruel infections of the deceiver.

Lead, kindly Light,
amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!

John Henry Newman

Divorced from kindly compassion,
how quickly justice devolves
into coercion.

Whether pious or political,
loveless blame-shame condemnations
of earth and her children are always unholy.

For the Holy One so loved the cosmos entire!

John 3:16

From intention, to thought, theology and agency,
may we excise with merciful precision
every trace of cruel judgment and mocking derision.

Thus, through honest kindness,
might we each find a way
to scatter seeds of merciful justice every day.

For God knows it is good to give;
We may not have so long to live,
So if we can,
Let’s do each day a kindly deed,
And stretch a hand to those in need,
Bird, beast or [hu]man.

Robert William Service

May the sting of disinfection awaken you
to welcome the long-awaited healing
heralded by a softer season of kindness.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Peace Profound

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Dear Seeker,
In these extraordinary, perilous times
let us call upon
the pervasive, penetrating Presence,
of the recreative Spirit of Truth
who is peace, wholeness, healing
deeper and wider
than division, destruction, fear and fanaticism.

I offer this ancient invocation, reframed for our time.
Let this intention resound
beyond the walls of your heart
as you set this Spirit loose to breathe
over the face of our fractured, fear-filled nation.

An ancient blessing renewed,
for all who are heart-sore,
worried or wondering at this turning of turning:

Deep Peace of the running wave, and the cleansing of the waters.
Deep Peace of
the flowing air, and the clearing of the skies.
Deep Peace of the soft rain, and the shelter of friendship.
Deep Peace of shining stars, and the memory of timeless beginnings.
Deep Peace of the quiet earth, and the kinship of all creatures.
Deep Peace of the gentle night, and the warm hearth of family.
Deep Peace of the ancient stones, and the tenacity of life.
Deep Peace of the heart of Mary, and the tender touch of every mother.
Deep Peace of the Christ child, and the Holy One guised as enemy and kin.
Deep Peace of our merciful Maker, and the Spirit who makes us one.
To the terrors of the night, and the troubles of your day, Deep Peace.

Celtic Traditional (Adapted)

Excerpted from Wandering and Welcome by Joe Grant

joe

A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Fresh Start

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

In the dark before dawn, he awoke and went into the wilds to pray.
Simon and his companions sought him out and finding him said,
‘Everyone is looking for you.’

Mark 1:35-37

Seeker,
What are you looking for in this fresh and fragile new year?

On the cusp of a year brand-new,
we wonder what to hold and what to let go;
means and mindsets that need to die, so newness now can grow.

Names and faces in hallowed memoriam held;
losses that will never leave us, lashed to our regret;
lessons we cannot afford to ignore or too quickly forget.

Upon this weathered threshold,
we dare not wish away
a past, now part of us, that brought us to brink of day.

They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor

Mary Oliver, On Winter’s Margin

For we must believe in beginnings,
resist the draw to replicate or retain
previous patterns, expectations and well-practiced distain.

In mind and mode, already things have changed,
hopefully so will we.
For a start to be new and fresh, we really must break free.

Often we embark with committed resolve,
which quickly dissipates and leaves
as we fold back into the familiar that readily deceives.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

In policy and practicality,
what must we bring to an end,
so we might at least start to make amends?

Will we listen hard to injustice at the root,
reject rampant falsehood, face our fears within
to bravely embrace a wider truth so reconciling might begin?

Will we loose spirited imagination not ours,
to revise, renew and creatively restore
the scoured face of earth, scorched, parched and sore?

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush …

R. S. Thomas

Though we may lack capacity
to realize what begs to be done,
still, can we decide who we each intend to become.

Reshaping community and beyond,
will require of us “good trouble”
to fins a pathway clear through all the smoke and rubble.

So in this dark before dawn
let wild soul searching start
for the Christ we must reclaim when our world is torn apart.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Liquid Life

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

By the tenderest mercy of our Maker,
dawn from on high will break over us,
to enlighten all who sit in death’s dark shadow,
and guide our feet back to the ways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Living below
the flight path
of an air-freight world hub

invites regular rumbled interruptions
that shred nerves, rattle windows, and interfere
with conversations, as well as household electronics.

In early morning, at eventide
and into dead of night,
our neighborhood is rent with whining turbines

that defy gravity as they strain
to launch or land monstrous metal birds,
miraculously uplifted by invisible airy currents.

In pairs they arrive or depart,
roaring and tearing at the cloudy blue
as speedily they rise or slowly descend.

Low-flying and laden with treasures and trinkets,
they bear necessities,
along with niceties from ports unknown.

Like those harbor docklands of old,
our city is now a sky port
with an army of shippers and handlers

who toil day and night
to manipulate mountains
of the stuff that stuffs our overfilled lives.

And in the frenzied season of buying and gifting,
this frequent freight flying
reaches fevered pace.

The light shines in the darkness,
and darkness did not overcome it.

John1:5

These cold, stark days,
I sit on my porch and skyward stare,
as wordless breath mists chill air.

I wait and I watch
blinking white underbellies, wheels down,
pass low over trees and rooves.

No longer greeted by impatient frustration
and a rumbling undercurrent
of worried resentment,

these days, this rattling roar
resounds like death-defying thunder,
announcing from the heavens that hope is on the wing.

For cargo planes, now turned angelic,
are also pregnant with the possibility
of new liquid life.

In defiance of the typical detritus
of seasonal sentimentality,
these magnificent machines bear life-saving serum in their bellies.

So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Seamus Heaney

Each mechanical messenger
I greet like Gabriel or Hermes,
with a hopeful nod and the glimmer of a smile.

I call to mind our fearful, fragmented,
beleaguered human family,
brought low by viral load.

How long-awaited, this clear liquid life,
to shatter the shadow of pandemic
that once again, we might breathe easy.

But not quite yet!
For we are still plagued by pride,
and hubris humiliates us.

Disease also defines us,
as crisis unmasks systemic inequities,
along with vanities and vulnerabilities.

Pandemic pleads for new self-understanding;
a world repatterned around care for creatures
and health care for humankind.

Plague will not leave us
until we refuse to leave
any member of our human family behind.

Historically pandemics have forced humans
to break with the past and imagine their world anew.
This one is no different.
It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Arundhati Roy

May the hope that gilds the horizon
bring enlightenment, chase away cruelty
and heal hearts that mourn the cruel cost of living.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Wintered Wisdom

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Like gatekeepers on the watch
whether at eventide, midnight dark and break of day,
ever vigilant stay!

Mark 13: 34-35

Seeker,
Before your much-needed shot in the arm,
what have you learned from this season of dark discontent?

Warily we waken
to winter’s deeper reason
as cautiously we welcome a chilly challenging season.

As north leans away
from our daystar’s angled rays,
we roll into a shadowland of shorter, starker days.

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!

William Shakespeare

Midwinter assured
our ancestors,
a terribly trying time:

a struggle for fuel and food
warmth and shelter,
to safeguard them till sunlight’s return.

Now watchful, we observe
companion creatures
endure seasonal hardships.

And the awakened among us
witness brutal weather ravage our kin,
denied adequate hearth and home.

But winter shoulders special graces
to draw us close
to the fire of each other

with storytelling,
sweet treats and new kindling,
to coax the light’s return.

Still it remains
a time of waiting and wondering;
ever watchful for:

danger and distress,
disease and disaster,
despair and delight.

Rather than decry
this shadowed season
in these terribly troubled times,

wintering urges us
to imitate
our creature-kin:

to prepare for it,
learn its lessons,
make space for its darker graces.

Wintry wisdom,
schools us to honor
and enter the dark together.

Those black sharp and flat
notes in our lives
are necessary keys to change and harmonies.

For in meandering course,
every life must traverse
many veiled valleys:

a dark night of the senses,
soul and spirit,
a long twilight of the earth.

Other shadowed vales appear:
Isolation and injustice,
climate calamity, deprivation, indignity.

Black indeed is the backdrop
upon which Creation
sparkles and glows.

Darkness everywhere lingers.
Even bright of day
births shadows.

For much of our brief span
we are blind to the breadth of beauty
and depth of tragedy.

Though we cannot see it,
a riot is silently running
just beneath our feet.

Even as winter looks
like desolation,
the wakeful perceive creation

in frenzied preparation
for another eruption
to meet resurgent radiation.

And while we decorate
this sacred cycle
in the gaudy garb of liturgy,

such solemnities,
and their heady abstractions,
insulate us from the shivering shock of raw reality.

Faith, hope, and love above all
do not let us flee life’s harsh splendor
by retreating into ideation.

What if for one day each being acknowledged the fear
and let it go? Suspended beliefs
opened their arms, drew strength
through earth, grass, rock, sand.

Melissa Shaw-Smith

With chilly bareness,
earth coaches us
about dying, watery light, necessarily difficult days.

And turning toward the light
we open ourselves
to life signs amid desolation.

Advent dark proclaims
that wrapped in humble solidarity
and fragile vulnerability

Emmanuel approaches:
One come to bide with us,
who cannot abide to be without us;

at one with all
our loves and losses,
aches and limitations.

So I say to one what I say to all: Keep awake!

Mark 13:37

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Time to Mend

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

It is not the healthy who need healing, but those who are ill.
Go and learn this; ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’

Matthew 9:13-13

Seeker
What needs to mend to bring these difficult days to an end?

Now is the time to turn
every effort of mind and spirit
toward mending.

After all, healing starts to happen
the moment the blow is struck;
before bumps swell and bruises blossom.

At lightning speed,
our bodies release
endorphins to soften suffering;

platelets clot
around wounds
to staunch the flow;

cohorts of white cells
converge to consume infectious invaders,
as blisters bathe ruptured cells.

At every level,
our corporeal community
reflexively coordinates a concerted healing response.

No matter the intensity of injury—
though we may be traumatized—
our bodies diligently work for repair.

There is a time to tear and a time to mend.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Pandemic continually exposes
the essential truth
of our interwoven interdependence.

The entire body of humankind has fallen ill,
stricken by a disease
that contaminates our every “normal” operation.

Masked and gloved,
we dare not risk sharing a moist breath
or clasping a clammy hand,

nor can we coalesce around the frail,
to hug and hold
those who are hurting.

Now we come to appreciate
the necessary loving touches of community
for mental, physical, and moral wellbeing.

Far deeper than a gregarious nature;
it is only by “being with”
that we understand how to be human.

And there is such
sacramental soul force
in the mutuality of communal experience.

Wherever two or three gather in my name,
I am right there among them.

Matthew 18:20

Rapidly-reproducing
miniscule COVID particles
have already transformed life across our globe.

We cannot hope to contain a plague,
that affects hearts and minds as it infects bodies,
without learning its lessons.

Our greatest failure
may be failing to learn;
else this plague will overcome us.

Feigning invincibility
while disregarding great loss of life,
reflects only callous hubris and deadly folly.

It is always the right time to do the right thing

Martin Luther King Jr.

Just as a single cell cannot affect repair,
mending begins with the humble awareness that
it takes more than a village, a city, even the capacity of any nation alone.

It takes all of us,
pooling together
every resource of intellect, energy and will.

Perhaps the blessing of these diseased days
may be our eventual unanimity;
all humankind engaged in a common struggle.

We can build a beautiful city…
We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but truly mending
Brick by brick
Heart by heart
Now, maybe now
we start learning how.

Stephen Schwartz

Mending means more than developing a cure.
It reaches for universal repair—
reweaving our relationships to life.

Since love is both the ending
and the means
to mending,

may we embrace a new era:
a great convergence of the whole human body,
broken and mercifully blessed with a deep desire to mend.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?

Dorothy Day

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Radical Resistance

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Be attentive.
See that your hearts are not sluggish, inebriated or weighed down by the worries of the world, so you are not caught unaware and ill-prepared for the day that approaches.

Luke 21: 34-35

Seeker,
Can you stand in quiet assurance before menace or manipulation and still reject violence of word or deed?

There is much
that mitigates against quiet wakefulness
in the rush and rumble of difficult days;

in aching hearts,
troubled minds,
and the slosh and swell of anger and anxiety.

Even as we minimize background bustle
and soften foreground chatter,
often we concede

the middle ground of mindfulness
to the rancor of unspoken argument,
preoccupied with daily distresses.

And still silence
often eludes us
in these tumultuous times.

Each day bears a fresh payload of problems.
All times, in their own way, are troubled.
Some seasons are uniquely tempestuous.

Clarity
In silent stillness
the swirling sediment sinks
till clearness creeps in.

Joe Grant

We have entered an extraordinary time of darkness.
A shadowland of struggle looms,
eager to engulf and disorient us in gloom.

Here, silence makes a first impression as isolation,
darkness as creeping alienation,
stillness as capitulation.

Without steady stillness,
clearness of mind, heart, spirit
cannot coalesce and enlighten cloudiness.

Blessed are the clear-hearted,
they will see the Holy One
(in everything).

Matthew 5: 8

In quiet time,
calm and shadow present another aspect;
invite a different kind of engagement.

Silence
is so much more
than absence of noise.

Surrounding soundlessness is the unheard ambience—
front, center, background—
that is both container and conveyor for action and agitation.

Silence can be a fullness rather than a void…
To be still is a spiritual endeavor.

Terry Hershey

As we cannot see the wood for the trees,
we fail to note the quiet
between, before, and following sound.

In the beginning, it is written,
Spirit hovered over the dark—
breath to stir the still waters of the deep.

Silent stillness speak volumes.
More than a restorative,
it is a revolutionary resource for resistance.

Dark and quiet can integrate and
inoculate us from alienation by drawing us closer,
requiring us to lean in and listen to one another.

Resistance demands
divesting from certain
patterns of thought and action.

Quiet resistance
involves the required reflection
of space-making sabbath.

And sabbath is radically subversive;
agitating angst or apathy with peace,
calmly disturbing distress.

Be still and know that I AM God.

Psalm 46:10

Where diabolical forces are in play
and daily deceptions abound,
sowing distain for deeper truth,

may we resist the clamor of violent thought and action,
defy the desire to dehumanize,
decry the temptation to demonize.

May we also reject the futility
of reflexive retribution so we might rest,
rooted and grounded in love beyond understanding.

While leaves quiver, limbs shake
and the strongest trunks must bend and sway,
roots alone remain; silent and still unshakeable.

Be still and know that I AM.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be!

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Reckoning and Reconciliation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

The heart of this nation has grown calloused,
their ears are hard of hearing and they have shut their eyes;
so they might not look with their eyes, listen with their ears,
understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.

Matthew 13:15

[Beneath the menacing pulse of helicopters,
troop carrier convoys command empty downtown streets,
and armored police columns cordon crosswalks

while armed militias posture before protestors.
Now, my adopted hometown heaves
under the raw realization

that justice,
who long ago lost her blindfold,
sees only in black and white.

Under curfew, behind barred doors,
in flickering candlelight we wait, watch, worry,
as we listen to sirens and pray for peace even without justice.

Like so many families in other darkened cities, distant countries,
far-off times and places, we wonder:
How did it come to this and where do we go from here?
Louisville, Kentucky; September 24, 2020]

Seeker,
What role does your faith play when some lives and deaths
seem to matter less than others?

When curiosity and desire for conquest
carried our European ancestors to these shores
their cultural cargo included death dealing disease, weaponry,
and a divine dispensation to control natives and colonize nature.

With the cross came the crown.

Papal declarations permitted the exploitation of human communities
and consigned them to carve out gold and silver from the earth
to gild crucifixes and candlesticks in far flung cathedrals.

With the crown came chains.

Named and claimed for the distant monarchs of Christendom,
verdant wilderness was tamed and turned to cultivation.
New plantation populations were needed
to raise cotton, sugar, tobacco; and raise profits.

With chains came commercial opportunity.

As African families were abducted, shackled, shipped, sold into slavery,
more moral manipulations permitted prelates, preachers and presidents
to impose divinely ordained hierarchy and hegemony;
a travesty to cleave God’s family; making some subservient and others supreme.

With commercial exploitation came crucifixion.

Our faith story in these lands
remains insinuated in the filaments of this trifurcated root:
genocide, nature desecration and slavery.
Still, ‘Cristo Negro’ cries out breathless from the cross
and we remain shackled to a shameful legacy of privilege and supremacy.

With emancipation comes reckoning

How do faithful people account for participation in racial sin;
make amends, affect repair?

The Examen – listening, looking, learning—
predicates penance.
Confession precedes forgiveness.
Truth-telling comes before reconciliation.
Reconciliation demands restitution.
Restoration requires reparation.

But blessed are your eyes,
for they see,
and your ears, for they hear.
Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear,
but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:16-17

May we recover courage and shake off the shackles
of crown, commerce and cultural crucifixion,
to freely enter together the undiscovered country where we
black, brown, indigenous and immigrant people are all cherished.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression, and war.

John Lewis

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A NEW BOOK BY JOE GRANT