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


Reflections & science of salt as sacred & essential element and as an image for spiritual practice: themes from Taste & See series.

Music about Salt of the Earth:

Questions to consider:

  • Who in your life do you consider to be ‘salt of the earth’? What lessons does this person have to offer?
  • Why is salt paired with light as an essential and sacred element?
  • Thoughts posed by Jan Richardson:
    • So how savory are you these days?
    • How is light finding its way into you and through you?
    • Is there anything—or anyone—that is working against this, that is tipping a bushel over your shining?
    • Might there be some part of you that needs revealing, needs to unhide itself … ?
  • Using the imagery of salt, what attributes of this element do you recognize in yourself or wish to cultivate as an additional spiritual gift:
    • an agent who preserves and protects
    • one who surprises by heightening contrast and enhancing different perspectives and talents
    • a catalyst of change
    • an element promoting consistency of outcomes
    • a strengthening and stabilizing force
    • one who enables transmission of energy or messages and communication
    • one who is essential to life
    • something else entirely?

Love Like Salt — Lisel Mueller
It lies in our hands in crystals too intricate to decipher
It goes into the skillet without being given a second thought
It spills on the floor so fine we step all over it
We carry a pinch behind each eyeball
It breaks out on our foreheads
We store it inside our bodies in secret wineskins
At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

Salt of the Earth (lyrics excerpt) — Rolling Stones
Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth …
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth …
Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth …

Take It With a Grain of Salt
(excerpt from article by Bloomsbury International)

Idiom … In 77AD Pliny the Elder (a natural philosopher under The Roman Empire) translated an ancient cure to poison, in which he wrote “to be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt”. This suggested that bad effects could be counteracted by a grain of salt. The more metaphorical meaning – that incorrect information might be made easier to accept by ‘taking it with a grain of salt’ – did not become widely used until much later, in the 17th Century. For example, in 1647 John Trapp said of his own writing “This is to be taken with a grain of salt”. More recently, the idiom has been modified from a grain of salt to a pinch of salt, and we can now use either grain or pinch in this saying.

Thoughts On Salt

Wonder is the salt of the earth. — M. C. Escher

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. — Nelson Mandela

Whoever you are, whatever you are, start with that, whether salt of the earth or only white sugar. — Alice Walker

The percentage of salt in our bodies is very close to that of the ocean, so just how salty does that make us? — Len Fisher

In Rome… the soldier’s pay was originally salt and the word salary derives from it. — Pliny the Elder

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt.  ― Anne Lamott

A black person grows up in this country – and in many places – knowing that racism will be as familiar as salt to the tongue. Also, it can be as dangerous as too much salt. I think that you must struggle for betterment for yourself and for everyone. — Maya Angelou

Seas were meant to be sailed by those with salt in their veins, and love in their heart. ― Anthony T. Hincks

Any conviction worth its salt has chosen to cohabit with a piece of mystery. All of our traditions insist on a reverence for what we do not know now and cannot tie up with explanation in this lifetime. This is an invitation to bring the particularities and passions of our identities into common life, while honoring the essential mystery and dignity of the other … — Krista Tippett

In ancient Rome, it was salt and not money that was used for commerce or trading. The soldiers who worked for the Roman empire got a handful of salt in return as their payment each day. This is where the common saying of “being worth one’s salt” comes from. Soldiers who did a good job were worth the salt they earned. — Roshni

For it is not needful, to use a common proverb, that one should drink up the ocean who wishes to learn that its water is salt. ― Irenaeus of Lyons

… you just add a pinch. Salt brings out all the flavors … It’s weird, isn’t it? How something so opposite of sweet can make things taste even better? ― Cecilia Galante

Commentary on
Being Salt of the Earth


Jesus’ words … are meant to wake us, to remind us of what we carry in our bones: the living presence of the God who bids us be salt in this world in all our savory particularity; to be light in the way that only we can blaze. — Jan Richardson

We perhaps should not miss the fact that Jesus does not say “here are the conditions you must meet to be the salt of the Earth.” He does not say here are the standards of wholeness you must fulfill in order to be light for the world.  He looks out into the crowd of people in pain, people who have been broken open – those cracks that let in and let out the Light, who have the salt of sweat and tears on their broken bodies, and says you ARE salt. You. You are light. You have that of God within you the God whose light scatters the darkness. Your imperfect and beautiful bodies are made of chemicals with holiness shining in it…you are made of dust and the very breath of God. In other words, you are a broken jerk and Jesus trusts you. Don’t wait until you feel as though you have met the conditions of being holy. Trust that Jesus knows what he is doing. And that you already are salt and light and love and grace. Don’t try and be it. Know that you already are. And then, for the love of God, take that seriously. The world needs it. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Jesus said the church should be the salt of the earth, and we need to remember the salt is not the food. He said we should be the leaven in the bread, and we are not the whole bread. The church, along the way, started thinking it was the whole bread, the whole food, but we’re just the salt and leaven. When the church operates as a small community of rooted and committed believers, then it makes a difference. From its minority position of integrity and truth, it is able to preach the Gospel. And that leaven is enough to “save” the world from self-destruction. — Richard Rohr

Salt is also an important image in the Buddhist canon, and this Christian teaching [salt of the earth] is equivalent to the Buddha’s teaching about sangha. The Buddha said that the water in the four oceans has only one taste, the taste of salt, just as his teaching has only one taste, the taste of liberation. Therefore the elements of sangha (community of practice) are the taste of life, the taste of liberation, and we have to practice in order to become the salt. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Jesus himself, as the gospel story goes on to its dramatic conclusion, lives out the same message of the Sermon on the Mount: he is the light of the world, he is the salt of the earth, he loves his enemies and gives his life for them, he is lifted up on a hill so that the world can see. — N. T. Wright

But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist, it is they who keep the life in those which already existed. — John Stuart Mill

Let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit to be the leaven of new life, salt of the earth and light of the world. — Pope Benedict XVI

SCIENCE of SALT
Salt as a Food Preservative (link to full article by Ingrid Koo)

  • Salt dries food. Salt draws water out of food and dehydrates it. All living things require water and cannot grow in the absence of water, including the bacteria which can cause food poisoning. Salt is used to preserve beef jerky by keeping it dry, and it prevents butter from spoiling by drawing water out, leaving just the fat …
  • Salt kills microbes. High salt is toxic to most (not all) microbes because of the effect of osmolarity, or water pressure. Water diffuses between cells in the environment so that the concentration of solutes (such as salt) is the same on both sides of the cell. In very high salt solutions, many microbes will rupture due to the difference in pressure between the outside and inside of the organism. High salt can also be toxic to internal processes of microbes, affecting DNA and enzymes …

Salt as Seasoning & Flavor (link to full article)

  • Salt is one of the most widely used and oldest forms of food seasoning …
  • Saltiness is one of the five basic human tastes in addition to sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and umami (a savory, meaty taste, such as that of cooked mushrooms, cheese, or soy sauce).
  • As salt dissolves in a solution or on food, it breaks into its component ions: sodium and chloride (Na+ and Cl, respectively). The salty flavor primarily comes from the sodium ions.

Salt in our Bodies — Len Fisher

  • The human body contains many salts … sodium chloride … common table salt … is the major one, making up around 0.4 per cent of the body’s weight at a concentration pretty well equivalent to that in seawater. So a 50kg person would contain around 200g of sodium chloride – around 40 teaspoons.

Salt & the Function of Our Cells (link to full article)

  • Sodium is an essential nutrient but is something that the body cannot produce itself. It plays a vital role in the regulation of many bodily functions and is contained in body fluids that transport oxygen and nutrients. It is also essential in maintaining the body’s overall fluid balance …
  • An adult human body contains about 250g of salt and any excess is naturally excreted by the body.
  • Sodium enables the transmission of nerve impulses around the body. It is an electrolyte, like Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium; it regulates the electrical charges moving in and out of the cells in the body. It controls your taste, smell and tactile processes. The presence of Sodium ions is essential for the contraction of muscles, including that largest and most important muscle, the heart. It is fundamental to the operation of signals to and from the brain. Without sufficient sodium your senses would be dulled and your nerves would not function …

Baking Science & Salt (Link to full article.)

  • Flavor … Salt isn’t necessarily added to baked goods to make them taste salty, but to enhance all of the other flavors in the recipe.
  • Consistent finished results. … adding salt separately to baked goods can help ensure consistent results.
  • Control the fermentation rate of yeast … Salt is hygroscopic, which means it attracts water … mixed into a bread or pastry dough that contains yeast, the salt absorbs some of the moisture from the yeast, which in essence slows down its fermentation …
  • Strengthen bread and pastry dough … helps strengthen the gluten structure in bread and pastry dough, allowing it to hold carbon dioxide.
  • Make your baked goods last longer … hold on to the moisture inside of your finished baked goods, which means that they won’t go stale as fast as their non-salt-containing counterparts. 
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