Meditation on the vine as tree of life — connector and source — themes of hope from Hebrew scriptures, Gospel of John ‘I Am’ statements and more.

Around existence twine,
(Oh, bridge that hangs across the gorge!)
ropes of twisted vine.
—  Matsuo Basho

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear the speaking of the Tree.
They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today.
Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.
― Maya Angelou

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. … I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. — Epictetus

The wine of Love is music, And the feast of Love is song:
And when Love sits down to the banquet, Love sits long:
Sits long and rises drunken, But not with the feast and the wine;
He reeleth with his own heart, That great, rich vine.
James Thomson

Questions to consider:

  • What is essential to staying connected?
  • With whom do you need to connect? Yourself? Family? Friends? Other people? Creation? Holy love, by whatever Name you know and call it?
  • How have your forms of connection changed in the past few weeks? What works best? What do you miss?
  • How is love reaching out to you? How are you showing love?
  • What sort of role do trees play in your life? What tree do you connect with?
  • What’s your favorite song about or image of a tree?

Vine & Tree Songs:


I drank at every vine, the last was like the first.
I came upon no wine so wonderful as thirst.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Upon your shattered ruins where
This vine will flourish still, as rare,
As fresh, as fragrant as of old.
Love will not crumble.
—  Eleanor Farjeon

Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight.
Be a connoisseur, and taste with caution.
Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,
the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about “what’s needed.”
Drink the wine that moves you as a camel moves
when it’s been untied, and is just ambling about.
― Rumi

VINE as CONNECTOR & SOURCE of LIFE

Here it is in a nutshell: Old vines yield more concentrated fruit, resulting in richer wines with more sumptuous balance … Deep roots are a big asset too … — Beppi Crosario
 
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants – while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. — George Washington
 
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. — Benjamin Franklin

Today I begin a new life. Today I shed my old skin which hath, too long, suffered the bruises of failure and the wounds of mediocrity. Today I am born anew and my birthplace is a vineyard where there is fruit for all. — Og Mandino

Vines and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters. — Bernard of Clairvaux

A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander. ― Roman Payne
 
… you have vines and stars in your hair … ― Pablo Neruda
 
You are but a tiny cluster upon the vines of heaven, where the grapes are worlds; yet you hold the power to ripen your bitter berries and add to the eternal vintage of cosmic sweetness if so you will.  ― Eden Phillpotts
 
I guess it’s the same way trees grow around the very vines that are killing them, so they’re strangled and sustained all at once.  ― Lauren Oliver

Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for. ― Marcus Aurelius

 Plant no tree sooner than the vine. — attributed to Horace
 
O Love, what hours were thine and mine, In lands of palm and southern pine; In lands of palm, of orange-blossom, Of olive, aloe, and maize, and vine. — Alfred Tennyson

Water is the mother of the vine, The nurse and fountain of fecundity, The adorner and refresher of the world. — Charles Mackay

Christian Commentary on VINE METAPHOR

Of all trees, I observe God hath chosen the vine, a low plant that creeps upon the helpful wall; of all beasts, the soft and patient lamb; of all fowls, the mild and guileless dove. Christ is the rose of the field, and the lily of the valley. When God appeared to Moses, it was not in the lofty cedar nor the sturdy oak nor the spreading palm; but in a bush, a humble, slender, abject shrub; as if He would, by these elections, check the conceited arrogance of man. — Owen Feltham

The vine . . . is not the root merely, but all – root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit: and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. — James Hudson Taylor
 
isn’t it wonderful that two of the most sacred and symbolic plants, the olive and the vine, live on almost nothing, a terrace of limestone, sun and rain … —   Janet Erskine Stuart

Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it. —  Khalil Gibran

Looking closely, we see the many entwined branches, winding their way around one another in intricate patterns of tight curls that make it impossible to tell where one branch starts or another one ends. This is not just intricate; it’s intimate, and the vine shares with its branches the nutrients that sustain it, the life force of the whole plant … this vine is one with the branches … we find the best grapes close in to the vine, “where the nutrients are the most concentrated.” … This kind of abiding … showers us with “shalom, which speaks of wholeness, completeness, and health.” Here, close to the vine, immersed in shalom, we find not only nourishment but also hope and joy. 
— Kathryn Matthews

The duty of the branch is to cling to the vine. —  Max Lucado

Affliction brings out graces that cannot be seen in a time of health. It is the treading of the grapes that brings out the sweet juices of the vine; so it is affliction that draws forth submission, weanedness from the world, and complete rest in God. Use afflictions while you have them. —  Robert E. Murray

The biblical quote “each man under his own vine and fig tree” has been used to denote peace and prosperity. — Jennifer, Thoughts & Visions blogger

TREE of LIFE Across Cultures

For you placed the salvation of the human race on the wood of the Cross, so that, where death arose, life might again spring forth and the evil one, who conquered on a tree, might likewise on a tree be conquered, through Christ our Lord. — Liturgy of the Exaltation of the Cross (preface)

THE HISTORY OF THE TREE OF LIFE SYMBOL one tribe apparel & treeremoval.com (these pop commcercial sites, the info has not been validated)

As a symbol, the Tree of Life … oldest known example was found in the Domuztepe excavations in Turkey, which dates back to about 7000 BC. … A similar depiction of the tree was discovered in the Acadians, which dates back to 3000 BC. The symbols depicted a pine tree, and because pine trees do not die, the symbols are believed to be the first depictions of the Tree of Life.  

The Tree of Life also has strong significance to the Ancient Celts. It represented harmony and balance and was an important symbol in the Celtic culture. They believed it had magical powers so when they cleared their lands, they would leave one single tree standing in the middle. They would hold their important gatherings under this tree and it was a very serious crime to cut it down.  

Multiple cultures have different mythologies involving the Tree of Life. References to the symbol have been found in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Iran, Ancient Mesopotamia and Urartu, and many more places. …

Buddhism – In Buddhism, the Tree of Life is known as the Bhodi-tree and is believed to be the Tree of Enlightenment.

Celtic Beliefs – The Tree of Life is a representation harmony and balance in nature. The Tree of Life, to the Celts, symbolized strength, a long life, and wisdom. The tree also represents rebirth, as it will lose its leaves during the fall season, hibernate throughout the winter, and will be reborn again once spring arrives. The Celts also believed that they actually came from trees, and considered them magical, living beings. Trees were said to guard the land and acted as a doorway into the spirit world. The Tree of Life connects the lower and upper worlds as its roots grow far down while its branches reach high. The tree trunk connects both of these worlds to the Earth’s plane. It was with this connection of worlds, that it was said that people are able communicate with the gods in the heavens using the Tree of Life.

Norse  … believed the source of all life on Earth was a world ash tree they called Yggdrasil. In the Norse tradition, the Tree of Life led to nine different worlds including the land of Fire, world of the dead (Hel) and the land of the Aesir (Asgard). Nine was an important number in both Norse and Celtic cultures.

The Mayans – According to this Mesoamerican culture, a mystical mountain on Earth was hiding Heaven. A World Tree connected Heaven, Earth and the Underworld and grew at the point of creation. Everything flowed out from that spot in four directions (North, South, East & West). On the Mayan Tree of Life there is a cross in the centre which is the source of all creation.

Ancient Egypt – The Egyptians believed that the Tree of Life was the place where life and death were enclosed. East was the direction of life whereas West was the direction of death and the underworld. In Egyptian Mythology, Isis and Osiris (also known as ‘the first couple’) emerged from the Tree of Life.

Christianity – The Tree of Life is featured in the Book of Genesis and is described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which was planted in the Garden of Eden. … The term ‘Tree of Life’ appears another 11 times in subsequent books of the Bible.

China – There is a Taoist story in Chinese Mythology which describes a magical peach tree that only produces a peach ever 3,000 years. The individual who happens to eat this fruit becomes immortal. There is a dragon at the base of this Tree of Life and a phoenix on top.

Islam – The Tree of Immortality is mentioned in the Qu’ran and is different from the Biblical account insofar as only one tree is mentioned in Eden which was forbidden … by Allah. The Hadith do mention other trees in heaven and while the tree symbol plays a fairly minor role in the Quran, it became an important symbol in Muslim art and architecture and is also one of the most developed symbols in Islam. In the Quran, there are a trio of supernatural trees: The Infernal Tree (Zaquum) in Hell, The Lote Tree (Sidrat al-Muntaha) of the Uttermost Boundary and the Tree of Knowledge which is in the Garden of Eden. In the Hadith, the different trees are combined into one symbol.

Pandemic — Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Meditations on the theme of shepherd, navigator, guide: Lenten journey using “I Am” statements from Gospel of John.

Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of Being. — Martin Heidegger

Between every two pines there is a doorway to a new world. — John Muir

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — Lao Tzu

A traveller I am, and a navigator, and everyday I discover a new region within my soul.  — Khalil Gibran

I’d finally come to understand what it had been: a yearning for a way out, when actually what I had wanted to find was a way in. ― Cheryl Strayed, Wild

It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. — Sir Edmund Hillary

For the Shepherd Who Is Also the Path the Sun Makes in Daytime (excerpt) — Komal Mathew
 … A good shepherd angles a lion’s eye,
traps gazelles in dry fields,
copies a cheetah’s spots one leg at a time. 
A good shepherd does not give you stones
when you ask for toast,
does not ask you to work without a burning bush
—but owns a gate, uses a gate,
pulls the weeds and leaves the wheat on an altar of choices. 
A good shepherd is a prince of peace
when terror finds its full echo,
a creator in the wild where a predator,
providentially, becomes prey. 


Essentials for the journey and styles of leadership:

Questions to consider (from Psalm 23 and John 8):

  • What helps keep you on track, headed in the preferred direction? How do you best navigate, and what do you experience as obstacles to the Way you want to live?
  • What are your essential tools or resources to bring along on a journey? What’s on your packing list?
  • Have you ever gotten lost? How did you cope? What did you learn from that experience? What helped and what didn’t you need?
  • When do you allow someone else to guide or lead you? When do you allow someone else to drive or pilot? Does the person doing the driving, piloting or navigating decide the route and destination? Who is in control and when does this change?
  • Who have been important guides, navigators and shepherds in your life? To whom do you serve as a shepherd, guide, coach, mentor, pilot?
  • When do you choose to lead, when do you choose to follow?
  • What style of leadership (see guide above) do you implement? To what style do you respond?

I AM Songs (including recommendations from members of JCC community)

SHEPHERD & GUIDE Songs

I Am: Trail Guide and Navigator

I was no longer following a trail. I was learning to follow myself. ― Aspen Matis

The compass rose is nothing but a star with an infinite number of rays pointing in all directions.It is the one true and perfect symbol of the universe. And it is the one most accurate symbol of you.Spread your arms in an embrace, throw your head back, and prepare to receive and send coordinates of being. For, at last you know—you are the navigator, the captain, and the ship. — Vera Nazarian

I do not believe there is any such sixth sense. A man with a good sense of direction is, to me, quite simply an able pathfinder – a natural navigator – somebody who can find his way by the use of the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch – the senses he was born with) developed by the blessing of experience and the use of intelligence. All that pathfinder needs is his senses and knowledge of how to interpret nature’s signs. — Harold Gatty

It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on … on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be. ― Cheryl Strayed

I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

When God walks, he leaves a trail of stardust in his wake. When I walk, I have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so that I can find my way home.  ― Anthony T. Hincks

Worshipping the Lord means giving Him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that He alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before Him that He is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history. — Pope Francis

The only passion that guides me is for the truth… I look at everything from this point of view. — Che Guevara

As we go about our daily routines, our internal monologue narrates our experience. Our self-talk guides our behavior and influences the way we interact with others. It also plays a major role in how you feel about yourself, other people, and the world in general. — Amy Morin

Reason guides but a small part of man, and the rest obeys feeling, true or false, and passion, good or bad. — Joseph Roux

God is never on the sidelines of His children’s lives. He goes before them. He leads them, guides them, protects and saves them. — Monica Johnson

It’s a great responsibility before God, the judge who guides us, who draws us to truth and good, and in this sense the church must unmask evil, rendering present the goodness of God, rendering present his truth, the truly infinite for which we are thirsty. — Pope Benedict XVI

We were not meant to mask ourselves before our fellow-beings, but to be, through our human forms, true and clear utterances of the spirit within. Since God gave us these bodies, they must have been given us as guides to Him and revealers of Him. — Lucy Larcom

It is thought and feeling which guides the universe, not deeds. — Edgar Cayce

On The Trail

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.  — Dr. Seuss

If you face the rest of your life with the spirit you show on the trail, it will have no choice but to yield the same kind of memories and dreams. ― Adrienne Hall

Failure is a signpost on the trail to success. ― Phillip Gary Smith

Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care.  — Earl Shaffer

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits. — Cindy Ross

After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value. — G.M. Trevelyan

A walk in nature walks the soul back home. — Mary Davis

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it. — Andy Rooney

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. — John Burroughs

Don’t go to sleep now, for you have been awakened. Don’t shut your eyes, or you will put out the light. Stay awake to the power and force that guides and protects your divine essence. — Debbie Ford

Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain. – Jack Kerouac

In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. – Aristotle

In every walk with nature, one received far more than he seeks. – John Muir

Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other…again and again and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit. — Unattributed

There really is no correct way to hike the trail, and anyone who insists that there is ought not to worry so much about other people’s experiences. Hikers need to hike the trail that’s right for them… ― Adrienne Hall

I Am: Shepherd

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd. ― Rumi 

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty. — Abraham Lincoln

Shepherds lift their heads, not to gaze at a new light but to hear angels.  ― Richelle E. Goodrich

The seaman tells stories of winds, the ploughman of bulls; the soldier details his wounds, the shepherd his sheep. — Laurence J. Peter

… we’re lazy when it comes to doing things that are good for us; we also want someone to follow – someone to go first, for them to take the risks thereby smoothing our path; a sort of guarantee that we won’t stumble. Ironically, we also want to be followed in some way; we are both sheep and shepherd. ― Renée Paule

There was a shepherd the other day … who had in his eyes that reminiscence of horizons which makes the eyes of shepherds and of mountaineers different from the eyes of other men. ― Hilaire Belloc

I don’t want to get too philosophical, but in a sense, you’re given this gift, this sort of creative force in you, and I think everyone has it, and it’s completely unique to you. And you as a person have a little bit of a responsibility as its shepherd if you choose to incorporate that into your life. — Ze Frank

Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep. — Ken Blanchard

It is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them. — attributed to Tiberius


Meditations on “I Am” and “I Am Bread” statements and Lent: songs, poetry, quotations.

Wild Geese (excerpt) — Mary Oliver
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Questions to consider about I Am and I Am Bread:

  • Who are you in relationship to YWWH or the I Am Who I Am, I Will Be Who I Will Be?
  • Who are you when you’re on a journey?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • Who have you been?
  • Who are you right now?
  • What are you metaphorically, spiritually, socially, existentially hungry for?
  • What are you physically and mentally and emotionally hungry for?
  • What hungers or passions keep you balanced? How might they become too extreme or imbalanced?
  • And what hungers and passions need to change in your life?

Songs about I Am

who are you really?

you are not a name
or a height, or a weight
or a gender
you are not an age
and you are not where you are from

you are your favorite books
and the songs stuck in your head
you are your thoughts
and what you eat for breakfast
on Saturday mornings

you are a thousand things
but everyone chooses
to see the million things
you are not

you are not
where you are from
you are
where you are going
and i’d like
to go there
too”

— Attributed to MK (Mary Kate?)

I Am Meditations

I am all the ages I’ve ever been. ― Anne Lamott

The first question she was asked was What do you do? as if that were enough to define you. Nobody ever asked you who you really were, because that changed. You might be a judge or a mother or a dreamer. You might be a loner or a visionary or a pessimist. You might be the victim, and you might be the bully. You could be the parent, and also the child. You might wound one day and heal the next. ― Jodi Picoult

Feelings are something you have; not something you are. ― Shannon L. Alder

You are not born with beauty, your beauty is created by who you are. Your inner beauty is more important than how people see you on the outside. ― Emily Coussons

I am what I am. A fighter. — Gordon Ramsay

I know that I am what I am. But I am not sure what I am. — Mason Cooley

I am what I am, I’m doing very well in my life, and I’m thankful to God for that. — LL Cool J Only when we face the impossible, and experience the unbearable, do we find out who we truly are. ― Vironika Tugaleva 

If you don’t know who you truly are, you’ll never know what you really want. ― Roy T. Bennett

We have this weird thing in the world where you don’t get insulted for what you do, you get insulted for who you are. ― John Green

People are who they are and, try as you might, you cannot make them be what you want them to be. ― Leila Sales

Anne Lamott on Lent

Well, it’s the most profound holiday in the Christian tradition. And I think two things really come to mind. One is something that the great writer Barbara Johnson said, which is that we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God. But it’s a time when we get to remember that all the stuff that we think makes us of such value, all the time we spend burnishing our surfaces, is really not what God sees. God, he or she, loves us absolutely unconditionally, as is. It’s a come as you are party.

 we come from ashes and return to ashes, and yet there is something, as the poets have often said, that remains standing when we’re gone.

… So in Easter — and Passover too — something that happens is that we stop. This is the ‘dark night of the soul’ stuff that John the Divine writes about; that in that stopping we may fall into an abyss that we have been trying to outrun since we were little children … and the American way, I think, is to trick out the abyss so it’s a little bit nicer. Maybe go to Ikea and get a more festive throw rug. But in Lent, if you are a person of committed spiritual growth, you do stop.

… When I was 38, my best friend, Pammy, died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘Do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.’ … the resonance of that simple statement; when I stop, when I go into contemplation and meditation, when I breathe again and do the sacred action of plopping and hanging my head and being done with my own agenda, I hear that, ‘You don’t have that kind of time,’ you have time only to cultivate presence and authenticity and service, praying against all odds to get your sense of humor back.

— Anne Lamott

Who Am I?

What is to be done, O Moslems? For I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature’s mint, nor of the circling heavens.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsín;
I am not of the kingdom of Irãqain, nor of the country of Khorãsãn.
I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell;
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwãn.
My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;
‘Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.
He is the first, He is the last, He is the outward, He is the inward;
I know none other except ‘Yã Hú’ and ‘Yã man Hú.’
I am intoxicated with Love’s cup, the two worlds have passed out of my ken;
I have no business save carouse and revelry.
If once in my life I spent a moment without thee,
From that time and from that hour I repent of my life.
If once in this world I win a moment with thee,
I will trample on both worlds, I will dance in triumph for ever.
O Shamsi Tabríz, I am so drunken in this world,
That except of drunkenness and revelry I have no tale to tell.

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