Reflections on preparing for a journey: themes from trials in the wilderness scripture

Not all those that wander are lost. — J.R.R. Tolkien

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. — Anatole France Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. — Matsuo Basho

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
— Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

To travel is to live. ― Hans Christian Andersen

Dream Big. Start Small. Act Now. — Robin Sharma

The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself — Wallace Stevens

51. “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. — Jack Kerouac

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.— Marcel Proust

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.— Lewis Carroll

Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled. — The Prophet Mohammed


For Those Who Have Far to Travel
— Jan Richardson

If you could see the journey whole,
you might never undertake it,
might never dare the first step
that propels you from the place
you have known toward the place
you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road:
that we see it only by stages
as it opens before us,
as it comes into our keeping,
step by single step.

There is nothing for it
but to go, and by our going
take the vows the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to the next step;
to rely on more than the map;
to heed the signposts of intuition and dream;
to follow the star that only you will recognize;
to keep an open eye for the wonders that
attend the path; to press on
beyond distractions, beyond fatigue,
beyond what would tempt you
from the way.

There are vows that only you will know:
the secret promises for your particular path
and the new ones you will need to make
when the road is revealed
by turns you could not have foreseen.

Keep them, break them, make them again;
each promise becomes part of the path,
each choice creates the road
that will take you to the place
where at last you will kneel
to offer the gift most needed—
the gift that only you can give—
before turning to go home by
another way.

That Journeys Are Good Rumi
If a fir tree had a foot or two like a turtle, or a wing,
Do you think it would just wait for the saw to enter?
You know the sun journeys all night under the earth;
If it didn’t, how could it throw up its flood of light in the east?
And salt water climbs with such marvelous swiftness to the sky.
If it didn’t, how would the cabbages be fed with the rain?
Have you thought of Joseph lately? Didn’t he leave his father in tears, going?
Didn’t he then learn how to understand dreams, and give away grain?
And you, if you have no feet to  leave your country, go
Into yourself, become a ruby mine, open to the gifts of the sun.
You could travel from your outer man into your inner man.
By a journey of that sort earth became a place where you find gold.
So leave your complaints and self-pity and internalized death-energy.
Don’t you realize how many fruits have already
escaped out of sourness into sweetness?
A good source of sweetness is a teacher; mine is named Shams.
You know every fruit grows more handsome in the light of the sun.


Throughout the scriptures, the wilderness represents a place of preparation, a place of waiting for God’s next move, a place of learning to trust in God’s mercy. For forty days and nights Jesus remains in the wilderness, without food, getting ready for what comes next. — Working Preacher

Like Jesus, we experience both The River and The Wilderness.
     At The River, whatever that represents for us, we are surrounded by community and given new life and called beloved.  God is near.  And it’s beautiful.  And we need it. But it’s not the whole picture.
     Yet it can feel as though we treat Christianity, or being “spiritual” as a Wilderness avoidance program.   As though finding oneself in the Wilderness is a failure. I know for myself, when I’m struggling with depression or I am in a period of hardship where nothing seems to be working, then I find that I label that time as “bad”.  Or more often than not I’m ashamed because after 20 years of sobriety and a seminary degree, shouldn’t I really have it all together?  So clearly I must be doing something wrong. Sometimes that’s true but sometimes … it’s just the wilderness.  And I can promise you this.  As much as I need to hear that I’m beloved and be surrounded by community and be made new, and we all need that, but as much as I need that, I never gained any wisdom from things going really well at The River. Because The River might fill the heart and that’s important, but it’s The Wilderness that brings wisdom.
     I mean, I’d love it if spiritual wisdom was distributed in the Personal Growth section at Barnes and Noble but that’s just not the way it goes. It’s always been found in The Wilderness. Because if we look at the order of things – at The River Jesus is baptized and called God’s beloved, (before he even does anything cool or enlightened or special by the way) after which he’s cast into The Wilderness for a good long while. And it’s only THEN that he begins teaching and healing. See, Jesus doesn’t begin teaching and healing until after he’s gone through 40 days of Satan, wild beasts and angels. So why do I think my Wilderness to be a personal failure if Jesus’ Wilderness gave him what was needed to heal and to teach? …
     I think maybe because some of us have been taught a rather anemic view of God.  That God is only found at The River times in life – only found in the moments of renewal and elation and blessedness.  In other words, God is only close to us when we feel close to God.  But that’s not true.  Your feelings about God have precious little to do with God’s actual nearness to you. Because Sometimes God’s nearness to us is also found in the way that God creates wisdom out of our wilderness experiences.  God’s nearness to us, is just as real in the blessings of The River as it is in the struggles of The Wilderness.  And Oprah would kill me for saying this, but how we feel doesn’t really matter.  Not in this case…
    Maybe tonight you are struggling with depression, or unemployment or divorce or addiction.  Maybe you are in The Wilderness of wild beasts and angels. But the wisdom is coming.  And after that, The River so that your heart might again be filled. That’s the life of the baptized. The River, then The Wilderness, then The River. In other words,  this whole thing has always been about daily death and resurrection. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, full article:

Can we let God be God for us? If we face down our demons, can we trust that God will hold us?
      It may be helpful to consider Jesus in the wilderness as a coming of age story or coming into your own story that most people face. All around the world there are ceremonies and traditions young people in particular undertake to move into adulthood. Jewish young people have bar or bat mitzvahs and Christian young people have Confirmation. In Latino cultures, young women celebrate their Quinceanera. Some Inuits go out into the wilderness with their fathers when they’re 11 or 12 to test their hunting skills and get acclimated to the arctic weather. The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have a number of initiations young men most undergo before they become warriors in the tribe. …
     Human beings are meaning-makers. We tell stories and have rituals that help us mark important moments, moments when we move from one part of our lives into another. Perhaps this wilderness story is about Jesus moving from those safe and beautiful waters of baptism in the Jordan River to encounter the harsh realities of the world in the wilderness. Knowing that not everyone was going to believe he’s God’s Son, some people would want him to use his power and influence for their own purposes, and some people would want him to test God or be the Messiah they wanted him to be. All of this going against God naming Jesus and claiming Jesus as God’s own. All of this going against God being the One who tells us who we all are—beloved people of God.  So that’s one way to consider Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness—that it’s about Jesus coming into his own. …
     The other understanding we can glean from Jesus tempted in the wilderness is that the wilderness environment is not unique to Jesus in the least. We will have times when we are there too. Not necessarily physically speaking, but in a spiritual wilderness. The wilderness by definition is an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. The wilderness is wild and natural—where few people live. In our spiritual lives, the wilderness is when we feel pretty isolated from one another and perhaps even from ourselves and from God. Though perhaps the wilderness provides the landscape for us to do some profound spiritual wrestling with God.
In the end, when we’re in the wilderness, we can trust that God is with us, and that we are not alone. We can trust that we belong to God and that God has named us and claimed us as God’s own. We can trust that evil never gets the last word, and that love wins—always has and always will. Let us keep trust in our hearts as we journey with Jesus in the wilderness. — Mary James

…. If in Christ we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in Him, and see yourself as victorious in Him. He could have kept the devil from himself, but if He were not tempted He couldn’t teach you how to triumph over temptation. — St Augustine


Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. – Jane Kenyon.

And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself? — Rumi

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.— Tim Cahill

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. — St Augustine

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow..— Anita Desai

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.― Martin Buber

Journeys bring power and love back into you. If you can’t go somewhere, move in the passageways of the self. They are like shafts of light, always changing, and you change when you explore them. — Rumi

I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way. — Carl Sagan

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.— G.K. Chesterton

Do not follow where a path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. — John A. Shedd

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  — Yogi Berra

If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet. — Rachel Wolchin

All you’ve got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over. — Tony Wheeler

You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t choose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference. — Anita Septimus

Wilderness— Carl Sandburg
  There is a wolf in me . . .
fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . .
a red tongue for raw meat . . .
and the hot lapping of blood—
I keep this wolf because the wilderness
gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.       There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . .
I sniff and guess . . .
I pick things out of the wind and air . . .
I nose in the dark night and
take sleepers and eat them
and hide the feathers . . .
I circle and loop and double-cross.   There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a
machinery for eating and grunting . . .
a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—
I got this too from the wilderness
and the wilderness will not let it go.   There is a fish in me . . .
I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . .
I scurried with shoals of herring . . .
I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . .
before land was . . . before the water went down . .
. before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.   There is a baboon in me . . .
clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . .
yawping a galoot’s hunger . . .
hairy under the armpits . . .
here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . .
here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . .
here they hide curled asleep waiting . . .
ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . .
waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.   There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . .
and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains
of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . .
and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon
before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope,
gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—
And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.  

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs,
under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—
and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

JCC ANNUAL MEETING: Wednesday, Jan 19th @ 7pm



This week with JCC & Around Town: January 17-23, 2022

MON, Jan 17 (Martin Luther King Day)

  • Community Resource: BLACK MOUNTAIN
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report: Register now for Programs: 603-383-9355
  • Community Event: LOVE NOT HATE (Martin Luther King NH Coalition)
    1:30pm • Zoom:
    Option: 929 205 6099, Meeting ID: 838 1599 2942, Passcode: 267996
    • More info:
    • “Love Not Hate” is the theme for this year’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the 40th annual community event hosted by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition.
    • Musician TJ Wheeler will be a special guest; other musical performances include the MLK Jr. Choir, directed by James McKim, and the Manchester High School West Jazz Band, directed by Rebecca Berger.
    • Community members have prepared a shared reading of excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1957 sermon “Loving Your Enemies.”
  • Community Event: LISA GARDNER One Step Too Far BOOK LAUNCH CELEBRATION with Lisa Gardner & Mark Synott (White Birch Books Event)
    6:30pm • Majestic Theater, Conway
    Launch of Mount Washington Valley author Lisa Gardner’s newest novel, One Step Too Far. Local author Mark Synnott will chat with Laura about her new book and more. A Q&A will follow. 
    • The Majestic Cafe will open at 6 for beer, wine, water and soda; theater doors open at 6:30. Copies of One Step Too Far, and Lisa’s other books, will be available in the cafe, with a book-signing after the program.
    • Be sure to note the Majestic’s Covid-19 protocols 
    • The event will also be live-streamed from the Majestic stage, for a nominal charge, with an opportunity to submit questions on line. Info and tickets:

TUE, Jan 18

  • Community Resource: BLACK MOUNTAIN
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report: Register now for Programs: 603-383-9355
  • Community Event: CHAIR YOGA (Whitney Center Zoom Yoga)
    9:15am • Zoom
    Build core and upper body strength with this all levels chair class. Bring light weights, strap and blocks. Pre-registration required. Registration link:
    12:30pm • Zoom
    Local clergy convene for conversations, ecumenical event-planning, and peer support. Rev Gail attends.
    3:15pm • Zoom (link and password required from church)
  • Community Event: FLOW & ALIGN YOGA (Whitney Center Zoom Yoga)
    4:30pm • Zoom.
    This all levels yoga class builds community, core strength, and overall body alignment. Come practice with us and build friendships while receiving the benefits of a moderate flow yoga class.Pre-registration required. Registration link:
  • Community Resource: LIBRARIES
    • Wildcat Tavern: Hoot Night with Jonathan Sarty • 6-8:30pm

WED, Jan 19

  • Community Resource: BLACK MOUNTAIN
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report:
    Today: Skijoring with Jack Steffen. Watch the skijoring action and learn if it is right for you and your canine buddy. Free, meet at the “backstop” on the playing field near the Fire Pond.
  • FITNESS CLASS with Laurie McAleer
    9:30am • JCC Parish House
    Free. Gentle fitness and stretching customized to your needs. Appropriate for all ages and abilities.
    8am • Zoom.
    Rev Gail & other Jxn representatives attends as member of task force.
  • Community Resource: LIBRARIES
  • Community Event: CRAFTERNOON
    2pm • Jackson Library
    Bring your craft and hang out with others to complete it.
  • Community Events: MUSIC AROUND TOWN
    • Red Parka: Jon Sarty • 5-7:30pm
    • Wildcat Tavern: Simon Crawford • 6-9pm
    7pm • Zoom (link and password required from church)

THURS, Jan 20

  • Community Resource: BLACK MOUNTAIN
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report:
  • Community Resource: LIBRARIES
  • Community Service: WAY STATION SHIFT
    All Day • Way Station, 15 Grove St, No Conway
    Volunteers open day resource center for showers, mail pickup, grocery distribution, more.
  • Community Event: GEOLOGY of the PRESIDENTIAL RANGE
    7pm • Zoom link pending.
    They may be covered in snow currently, but there is a lot to discover about the geology of the White Mountain’s Presidential Range. Dr. Dykstra Eusden, Professor of Geology at Bates College and author of several books on the geology of the White Mountains, will discuss the bedrock history and ancient tectonics of the Presidential Range. Info:
  • Community Event: ZUMBA with Dotti Aiello
    3:30pm • Whitney Community Center
    $5/pp. Contact Dotti Aiello for more info:
  • Community Events: MUSIC AROUND TOWN
    • Wildcat Tavern: Rafe Matregrano • 6-9pm

FRI, Jan 21

  • Community Event: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
    Black Mtn, Jxn
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report:
    • Register now for Programs: 603-383-9355
    • Friday Gliders: Jan – mid-March
    • Four week Friday Programs: Jan 21,28
      • Classic: Gliding with Ease ($100/person, less $10 w/Season Pass)
        Ski further with less effort and more smiles! You may even start looking for more hills and corners because they are fun when you have the skills. (Four 1 hour sessions)
      • Skiing Fitness ($125/person, less $25 w/Season Pass)
        Make XC skiing a more strategic part of your fitness program. Includes intervals, terrain strategy and technique work as it relates to skiing faster. (Four 1.5 hour sessions)
      • Intermediate Skate ($125/person, less $25 w/Season Pass)
        If you already skate, this program will take you to the next level. (Four 1.5 hour sessions)
      • Intro Skate ($125/person, less $25 w/Season Pass)
        Learn to Skate in a progression of Friday sessions. A special rate for skate ski rentals is available. (Four 1.5 hour sessions)
  • Community Resource: LIBRARIES
    5pm •  Zoom (link and password required from church)
  • Community Event: MAJESTIC CAFE CONCERT w/ Al Hospers & Tom Robinson
    7pm • Majestic Theater
    Info & tickets:
  • Community Events: MUSIC AROUND TOWN
    • Wildcat Tavern: Al Shafner • 6-9pm
    • Shannon Door: Pat Guadagno • 6-9pm
    • Red Parka: Shark Martin • 8-11pm
    • Shovel Handle: Scott Baer • 6-9pm
    • Black Mountain: Candie Tremblay for Après • 3:30 to 5:30pm.

SAT, Jan 22

SUN, Jan 23

    8am • Old Red Library & Zoom
    Join us for poetry, prayer, and conversation.
    Hybrid: In-person with masking and social distancing or Zoom (link and password required from church)
    10:30am • (zoom & in-person)
    • Music by Alan Labrie
      Message by Rev Gail Pomeroy Doktor
    • Hybrid: In-person with masking and social distancing or Zoom (link and password required from church)
    • Service will also be live-streamed to website and Facebook (if technology supports this function on the day of event).
    • Afterward, recordings of worship service will be posted to channel & channel.
    • Red Parka Pub: Booby Sheehan • 4-7pm
    • Shovel Handle Pub: Scott Baer • 5:30-8:30pmpm
    • Shannon Door: Sheehan & Holden • 6-9pm
    • Black Mountain: Mitch Alden for Après • 3:30 to 5:30pm.
  • Community Resource: LIBRARY
  • Community Resource: BLACK MOUNTAIN
    Downhill ski events & conditions:
  • Community Resource: JACKSON SKI TOURING
    Info and Trail report:
    • Register now for Programs: 603-383-9355
    • Four week Sunday Programs: Jan.23, 30
      • Intro Skate ($125/person, less $25 w/Season Pass)
        Learn to Skate in a progression of Friday sessions. A special rate for skate ski rentals is available. (Four 1.5 hour sessions)
      • Classic Gliding with Ease ($100/person, less $10 w/Season Pass)
        Ski further with less effort and more smiles! You may even start looking for more hills and corners because they are fun when you have the skills. (Four 1 hour sessions)

Reflections on starting journeys: themes from baptismal scripture

If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl,
but by all means keep moving.
– Martin Luther King Jr.


If you would enter / into the wilderness,
do not begin / without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing / who you are:
Beloved, named by the One
who has traveled this path / before you.

Do not go  / without letting it echo
in your ears, / and if you find
it is hard / to let it into your heart,
do not despair. / That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise / this blessing will free you
from danger, from fear,
from hungeror thirst,
from the scorching of sun or the fall of the night.

But I can tell you that on this path there will be help.

I can tell you that on this way there will be rest.

I can tell you that you will know
the strange graces that come to our aid
only on a road  / such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort and strength,
that come alongside us / for no other cause
than to lean themselves / toward our ear
and with their / curious insistence / whisper our name:



Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute,
Whatever you can do, or dream you can—begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, magic in it;
Only engage,—and then the mind grows heated;
Begin!—and then the work will be completed.

It’s just as well, my pitcher shattered
I’m free of all that hauling water!
The burden on my head is gone….
A single well, Kabira
And water-bearers many!
Pots of every shape and size
But the water always One.
— ‘Bhala Hua Meri Gagri Phooti’ –song of Kabir.
translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56

Blessing the Baptism — Jan Richardson

As if we could call you
anything other than
and blessed

drenched as we are
in our love for you

washed as we are
by our delight in you

born anew as we are
by the grace that flows
from the heart of the one
who bore you to us.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.– Lao Tzu

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. – Søren Kierkegaard

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Tony Robbins

The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning. – Oprah Winfrey

 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
From what land do you come, O Swan ?
to what shore will you fly ?
Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek ?
Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise follow me !
There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent “He is I” is born on the wind:
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed and desires no other joy.
 — Poems of Kabir, translated by Rabindranath Tagore 1915, 55-56


So I hope in this baptismal life ahead of you that when you encounter water – this most common of substances which surrounds land and comprises our bodies…I hope when you drink it in; when you dive deep in a pool of it; when you wade in a stream of it; that even when you wash dishes with it; I hope that you are reminded of the promise of life eternal: a promise that life with God is as close to you as water and bread and wine and human bodies.  Because to be Christian is to know that the eternal is always contained in the present. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Water figures in many of Jyoti’s paintings, as too in biblical imagery: the waters that were ‘the face of the deep’ before creation; the waters of the flood, over which the rainbow shone, sign of God’s covenant of peace with all creation; the waters of the Red Sea parting to liberate the fleeing slaves, the ‘children of Israel’; the ‘water of life’ with which Jesus identified himself, both with the alienated woman at the well and during debate in the temple; the waters of baptism – that of Jesus and of those who accept his way. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

Jesus has become part with the waters. His character is innately like that of water. … water seeks out the lowest place. Or, as [St] Francis says in his Hymn to Creation, the waters are humble – they offer life to others and for others – and in themselves are clear, like light. — Jyoti Sahi Art Ashram

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