Seedtime

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

This truth I tell,
unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but should it die there,
much fruit will it surely bear.

John 12: 24-25

Seeker,
How is hope planted or buried in the soil of these times?

Always surprising,
vibrant and verdant,
springtime softens winter sharpness.

Long has life languished,
in urgent anticipation
of a seasonal revolution,

aching for the return
of warmer rains
to seep into frosted corners

so leafy windblown casts
of a brittle past,
encrusted with toil and loss,

can soak and crumble
into loamy dark,
ready to receive

what we thought
had been buried
but was actually planted.

So subtly significant
this distinction
between burying and planting;

the slightest shift of intention,
attitude and expectation
can turn the motivation for interment;

from grave to ground,
committal to commitment,
dissipation to dispersal;

from scattered sprinkling
to soil seeding
with possibilities unseeable;

from sorrow-sodden lacrimation
to watering and quietly awaiting
tiny emerald eruptions of fragile hope.

I’ll plant and water, sow and weed,
Till not an inch of earth shows brown,
And take a vow of each small seed
To grow to greenness and renown …

Edith Nesbit

Being fallow, remaining receptive,
are more than the passive attitudes
of a lengthening season.

Seedtime requires furrowing—
willing breakdown and soul softening—
that openly permits promised renovation to root.

One barrier yet remains
impervious to malleable mercy:
the hard-baked clay of cynicism.

For the sin of the cynic
smugly rests in the presumption to already know,
thus allowing nothing new to root and grow.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

Marty Rubin

Empty within,
spare, cleared, scoured and bare,
surrounded by starkness and surrender,

such are the signals
of deeper discontent and disquiet
that prepare the soul for penetration.

Soil must be broken open,
seed broadly flung,
husk shed.

What feels like losing,
reckless abandon,
careless casting of life,

is but part
of the broader, longer
resignation and relinquishment;

of clenched fist,
of calloused cruelty,
of haughty disregard

that seek only to condemn,
control, contradict
the gush of grace.

This free-flowing seedtime shower
drenches and disturbs
to draw newness out through the crack.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Indeed the hardest part of growing new
is not giving up, but giving in
to the relentless rush of restoration.

To believe again,
through necessary change in mind and heart-sight,
that nothing is ever really lost or wasted.

For the worst and worn out
still is needed
to fertilize the new and freshly unexpected.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have these two
housed as they are in the same body.

Mary Oliver

After a winter of lonely longing,
may you bury deep despair
and plant a joyful seed with tender care!

joe

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

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


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

Humble-Hearted

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Wherever is your treasure, there too will be your heart.

Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
When has life required courage; living from your core?

There is so much we’ll never know,
far less we understand,
till wisdom in unknowing extends her guiding hand.

Thus, the universal scope
of our ignorance,
does not dim the tiny spark of comprehension.

A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I shall put within you.

Ezekiel 36:26

One thing we know—
no matter how oblivious we appear—
there is a reliable rhythm to everything:

a flow and cycle of receive and release,
a give and take in constant exchange.
Whatever we put out, in the end, comes back.

Whether out of sync or sorts,
heaving and harried, drowsy and distracted,
distressed or disconnected,

we can recalibrate
the measure of each moment
to the pulse of life.

No mystic secret needed,
nor discipline austere,
just a heart-felt intention to be in unison.

We need only place a hand
upon that center of ache and desire,
to sense the throbbing tempo at our core.

When in secret I was shaped, my frame was not hidden from You.

Psalm 139:15

Weeks after conception
a tiny pump
begins to pulse and push.

Uninterrupted, this regularity
matches the meter of each breath,
till inevitably life leaves us.

To feel life-force coursing through us,
evokes awe—
with its tiny twinge of fear.

How many beats has your precious heart registered?
How many skipped? How many remain?
So fragile a force that that safeguards your life.

All complex creatures have hearts
and each human has a core,
a chamber of secret longings, and so much more.

Listen carefully to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.

Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Consider trillions of beating hearts
in this synchronous second,
all working tirelessly to stay alive, somehow all connected.

The hearts of creatures,
tiny and tremendous,
made in the likeness.

Whether in gated communities and ghettos,
forests, fields and factories,
we all share a tenuous connection to aliveness:

a heart where every wound,
wonder, worry and woe,
is oxygenated, nourished and healed.

Such awesome awareness,
this incalculable, incessant beating
across a pearlescent pebble, spinning in the dark.

Put a gentle palm upon the chest,
and sense the Sacred
at the heart of it all.

In its quiet rhythms,
behold infinite-intimacy
with every beating being.

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.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel

The pathway to heartfelt
understanding (standing under)
is humility.

And wonder ripens into awe
when hearts are humbled
by such smallness in the face of the infinite.

Give me a pure heart—that I may see Thee,
A humble heart—that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love – that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in Thee.

Dag Hammarskjöld

joe

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