Creaturehood

(A version of this reflection was posted in 2017)

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Look closely at the ravens.
They do not sow or harvest.
They have neither storehouse nor barn.
Yet, Holy One sustains them.

Luke 12:24

Seeker,
When was the last time Nature made you whole?

Deprived of natural habitat
we retreat into the head,
to feast on flashing images, make ideas our daily bread.

No creature
is designed or destined
to be caged.

All are fashioned
freely to roam,
broadly to range.

Thus, the majestic magnetism of Creation
exerts a hold on the soul;
not merely as playground, but original living room.

God is ever at home,
it’s we who’ve gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart.

Woody wilds
still possess power to captivate,
for we but recently clambered down from trees.

Walking leafy woodland
we break out of a heady hermitage,
back to holy ground where all belong.

But how can we know creaturehood
until we recover relationship
with the soil and seasons of natural neighborhood.

The moment we step outdoors,
draw breath and wander the wilds,
observers no longer, but participants are we.

The real prayers are not the words,
but the attention that comes first.

Mary Oliver

Failing to thrive in artificial isolation,
nature deprivation
spawns synthetic spirituality—spiked with unholy dualism.

Denied organic connection,
inhumane nature concocts conditions
that alienation people from planet.

Consider multitudes,
brothers, sisters, neighbors all,
consigned to shanty-town, defined by suburban sprawl.

Expanding mega-cities
fostering amnesia about sacred sister species,
breeding disdain for creatures who creep or swim or fly.

Such earthy expressions of creaturehood,
with every right to livelihood,
have much to teach that sanctifies and makes us whole.

How many are your works, Holy One!
In wisdom you made them all;
earth is brimming with your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Pilgrims, not exiles, on this planet,
we root for restoration;
to reclaim our place in an expanding universe.

Timeless rocks, endless stars,
expansive ocean depths, holy hills—
all living facets of Life that lives in us.

Wherever we pay attention,
Creation obliges with magnificent demonstrations
of gentleness, generosity, tenacity, liberation.

Remove the sandals from your feet,
for soulful is the ground beneath your soles.

Exodus 3:5

Without teachings from figs and fungus,
rocks, worms, and wrens,
how can we understand outlasting life?

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset,
eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands,
each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

John Muir

Are we not here to magnify munificence,
and do justice that paves the way for beauty—
truest trademark of our Maker?

Have we not power in our holy hands
to bring back balance,
and mirror magnanimity resplendent in Creation.

May you, this day, go out of your way
to let Nature school your soul
and restore Holy Creaturehood.

joe

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

Coming Soon!

SCRATCHINGS: Poems & More by Joe Grant

Good Grief

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

While they were deep in discussion,
Jesus approached incognito and went along with them.
‘What are you talking about?’ he asked.
They stood there, distressed.

Luke 24: 15-17

Seeker,
During these difficult days, what deep concerns do you carry?

When bereft,
we need others to help find our bearings,
for burdens shared are halved.

And good grief work,
a communion of sorrow and sadness,
unearths hard-won wisdom.

But first we must grieve
what is lost,
acknowledge what is broken

so that in the morning of mourning
hearts and lives can crack
and poured-out pain becomes love.

Unless we transfigure pain, we transmit it.

Richard Rohr

Each loss breaks to remake us
within this lovely shadow
where Holy One abides.

Thus, healing starts
with the humble admission,
of a heart’s desire for wholeness.

And deep transformation goes mostly unseen
till unexpected life resurges,
changed and still familiar.

This grief leads to goodness;
the salve in salvation, the return of redemption,
the resurgence called resurrection.

Grieving together readies
the road to resurrection,
proposing no escape from trial or tears,

but promising a wide-wounded welcome,
in solidarity with tangible sufferings
and alienations all.

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

Bernadette Miller

As we listen to uprisings
whispered in the
winds of change,

and attend
to sighs of loss, cries of pain
that blow through us and around,

clouded eyes clarify to gaze afresh
at living lessons in abundant display
in the school of Creation.

First, foremost,
and to the last,
gardeners all are we.

Relentless Rotation

Downfall to uprise;
seasonal revolution
that recycles life.

Joe Grant

Can you hear
the springtime song
of revolution?

Season of lightening days,
of preparing for planting,
of overturning land and exposing underlay,

of soil softening with showers,
of furrowing ground
for sowing and growing,

spring is hard to ignore.
Hopelessly distracted, sterile souls struggle
to remain impervious to its salacious allures.

As migrants wing
their way
on warmer winds,

milder nights begin to buzz
with the chirping meditations
of an insect chorus,

soon to be decorated with
luminous flickers
of dancing fireflies looking for love.

In our own way
we cooperate with
this irrepressible springtime arrival

that breaks through
pained separation
to welcome us back

into wider wellbeing and broader belonging;
transforming isolation
into wild, wonderful congregation.

Pressed and squeezed out of loss
this balm for heart and eye
has powerful transformative properties.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.

Teresa of Ávila

Resurrection requires
wide-eyed attention
and openhearted intention

to un-blinker vision,
unmask smiles,
dismantle fences from minds,

so newness can re-baptize us
with its penetrating
look of love.

We need not look far for resurrection.
Ultimately it depends on
what we are looking for and where we search.

Grieving grace ever abounds
as the wounded, holey Christ
hangs everywhere around.

joe

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


Bloodshed to Watershed

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021


Put your sword away,
for all who pick up swords
perish by the sword.

Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 26:52)

Seeker,
How has gun violence touched your life?

At a weekly vigil
for homicide victims
this insight was shared:

Hurting people hurt people
and healing people
heal people.

An insight turned lethal
in a marketplace flooded
with murderous weaponry

that makes it much easier
to kill more people more efficiently
than ever before in our bloodied story.

Is there a sadder sign
of the victory of violence than
numbness to nightly gunshots?

In the crosshairs of a national epidemic
that daily claims hundreds of humans,
who stops to say the name?

Might this slow rolling genocide
be tolerable because mostly it steals
lives from lower-income communities of color?

Yet even when
collateral casualties
are lighter and littler

is this still considered the cost of living,
price-tag of personal freedom
that kills at will?


Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.

Thomas Merton

Such deadly derangement
fueled by
the merchandizing of weaponry,

draws us into
the self-fulfilling prophecy
that guns alone guarantee safety.

So we are left
at the mercy of militarized policing,
camouflaged militias, disaffected isolationists

well-equipped to transform a school day,
a traffic stop, a movie night,
a trip to store or synagogue into a bloody massacre.

Intoxicated by belligerence,
religionists engage in cultural warfare,
under the banner of “spiritual warriors.”

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be known
as God own.

Matthew 5:9

Before being arrested by an armed militia,
before being beaten and tortured,
before being shackled and imprisoned,

before being tried
in the courtyard
of mob delirium,

before the gruesome spectacle
of public execution,
and that last forgiving gasp,

a peacemaking enemy-lover
walked among exploited
terrorized, occupied people

and boldly proclaimed
a peaceable realm
of disarmed hearts and unfettered minds.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5: 44

This radical revolution
of the heart
if embraced by nations and neighborhoods

or courageously preached,
and witnessed
by prelates and politicians

would surely subvert
the tyranny of individualism
with a call to mutual co-responsibility.

It might even threaten
manufacturers and marketers
of divisiveness and deadly force.

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

Dorothy Day

Passionately Christ still hangs
around bloodied crossroads
where violence claims another victim,

crying and pleading
for us
to put swords away,

calling us to transform
bloodshed into watershed
with a complete change in direction and motivation.

Gunshots in the night
ought to disturb
and keep us awake.

Because things do not have to be this way.
Because there is absolutely no glory in killing.
Because healing starts with acknowledging hurt as well as sickness.

May we …
choose not to ignore.
accept responsibility for a culture of fear.
name and claim victims and perpetrators of violence as kin.
reclaim humanity from brutality.
affirm that our wellbeing is bound together.

May it be so,
joe

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

Via Dolorosa

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

They compelled a passerby called Simon from Cyrene,
to carry his cross up to Golgotha, the skull place.

Mark 15: 21-22

Seeker,
Who shares burden and brings light to these difficult days?

What a panged journey,
this year-long
trail to Calvary.

Breathless millions
have succumbed along the way,
ten times more wane under viral load.

No time to mourn,
and catch our breath
as we languish in lamentation.

Some walk with the afflicted
others keep their distance,
many more worry and in isolation wait.

When will the long shadow lift,
and the deep vale widen into bright, broad plain,
as we round the bend and flatten the curve?

No symbolic suffering
needed to sanctify
such sacred space and time.

Unwillingly we walk
the dolorous road,
compelled to bear the load of suffering shared.

Walking amid mournful mothers,
past empty churches
through streets deserted,

despite heroic efforts
and miraculous curatives,
death mutates as danger lingers.

Out of that empty spot of silence
where we feel helpless, embarrassed, and powerless,
where we suffer from our own impotence
to stop the reign of death in our world.
Out of those depths we cry to thee and say:
Lord have mercy.

Henri Nouwen

With springtime uprising
comes upwelling hope
and lengthening light that shrinks shadows.

Even as we long to unmask and breathe free,
hug and hold and wipe tears away
learning to live more carefully,

still must we bear these beams of love
to the shrine of the skull
facing up to cruel injustice that rules this land.

So we brace ourselves
for the last arduous steps
toward a new day,

leaning into each other,
looking for life signs
refusing to resign to despair.

Via Crucis by Joe Grant *

Though we choose to walk in
the footsteps of the condemned,
we refuse to relinquish hope.

Though we accept to accompany
the ones who suffer,
we do not yield to despair.

Though we offer to help shoulder
the burden of those rejected,
we are not vanquished by death.

Though we stand in solidarity
and witness the persecution of the innocent,
we are not resigned to apathy.

Though we wrestle with complicity
in the injustice around us
we refuse to be paralyzed.

Though we walk in the valley
of the shadow of death,
we shall not fear,

for with You
we find forgiveness
and peace.

Heal us with Your forgiveness.
Calm us with Your peace.
Inspire us with Your love.

*(Included in Engaging Spirituality)

Burdens shared are halved
and blessings shared are doubled.

David Steindl-Rast

May you share the weight of sorrow
and bring the burden of delight to bear
on our transition back to life,

joe

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

Restless Reclamation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

So much in love with cosmos entire,
Holy One sent the Beloved,
that in believing all might know outlasting life.
For this very reason, was the Chosen One self-given,
not to condemn but to make whole the world.

John 3:16-17

Seeker,
What must be let go for love to reclaim you?

Have you noticed
a restlessness
all around and underground?

At long last,
the spell of dark discontent is breaking,
setting free a sprouting season of changeability.

All who wish to wake up
are invited into this miraculous melee
to let themselves be reclaimed in rejuvenation.

And there is work to do across the nation;
to furrow old crust, soften ruts,
and cleanse the land of poisons of the past.

This is how we ready ourselves for implanting
a message about wholeness and liberate love
from chains of persecution and patterns of privilege.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Bernice Johnson Reagon

In the bending and bowed trajectory of time
life is irresistibly drawn down
into a well of dying to be made new.

Down-falling and up-welling;
around these seasonal pivots
our whole whirling planet swivels.

From dying down to rising up
LIFE dances in sweeping
ceaseless choreography.

Transmuting death and decay,
with tenacious resilience,
self-giving regenerates and resurges.

Watered by loss,
such revolutionary surrender
by relinquishment is made tender.

Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.

Meister Eckhart

Where Divinity is love long-suffering,
condemnation evaporates
in the panged glare of compassion.

No thing
forever lost,
but upheld in unending restoration.

even in the quietest sense of disappearance,
even in the far distance of times beyond
our present understanding, we will be remembered
in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.

David Whyte

In the upwelling,
extravagant love yields abundance
with breathtaking diversity: no wasted time nor wasted life.

Through concrete cracks and hairline fissures,
in barren lots, abandonment and ruination,
nature persists in perennial reclamation.

With life-giving love as motivation,
every sunrise offers ample opportunity,
to collaborate with care-filled renovation.

Willful and willing,
all participate in this lifegiving cycle;
loving by losing, living by forgiving.

So we grow
by shedding and releasing
to rejoin outpouring everlasting.

Through love, we are softened back into presence.
And through suffering, we are broken back into presence.
However we get there, dropping below the surface of things
returns us to the heart of all being, which sustains the kinship between all things…

Mark Nepo

Those familiar with wilderness
know wasteland
as a garden in waiting.

Every landscape offers lessons,
and with slight encouragements,
deserts bloom.

But desert living presumes patience,
demands readiness,
requires willingness to grow by giving.

Ravaged lands,
baked hard by exploitation
and careless disregard

present the most resilient,
efforts and irrepressible
expressions of creation.

By such weeds are we saved,
since here healing awaits us too;
tenacious tenderness in unexpected places.

Needs beyond us
draw out deeper love,
lead to bigger belonging and wider reclamation.

As you bare your soles to earthy softness
may it writhe and wriggle,
to tease and tickle newness out of you,

joe

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

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