Between miracles of feeding 5,000 people and walking on water: spiritual self-care and care for others, responding to need, addressing fear, refusing to be someone you’re not ..

You have been walking the water’s edge, holding up your robes to keep them dry. You must dive naked under, deeper, under a thousand times deeper. Love flows down. — Rumi

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hanh

See if you recognize yourself in this story: Because maybe some of us are like the ones in the boat who are afraid. Maybe you are so caught up in the fear of making the wrong decision that you can’t make any decision at all. Or maybe you are like the one experiencing the thrill of stepping into the unknown … and maybe the first few steps are ok but then it gets scary. Or maybe you or the person next to you is the one who is sinking … or maybe you feel like you’re sinking because what you could handle last month you just can’t handle now. Or maybe you’re the one who knows you’re doomed, knows that all your own efforts have failed and you are crying out to God to save you and you’re the ones who Jesus has reached down to catch and you’re clinging on to the sweet hand of Jesus with all you’ve got. or maybe you’re the one in the boat looking in wonder all you’ve just seen… you’re the one who bears witness to the miracle and danger of it all and how the hand of God reaches down and pulls us up and you see it and can’t help but say “truly this is God.” At some point or other I know I have been all of the above. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. — Bruce Lee

Don’t you realize that the sea is the home of water? All water is off on a journey unless it’s in the sea, and it’s homesick, and bound to make its way home someday. — Zora Neale Hurston

Songs about ‘Walking on Water’:

Contemplative Water Audio Tracks:

Songs about ‘Needing You’:


Maybe Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
   stood up in the boat
      and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
   that night.
      But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
   the threshold—the uncles
      mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
   to sharpen his knife.
      Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water—
   sometimes, for days,
      you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
   one or two of them felt
      the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
   that wants to swallow everything,
      gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
   how the wind tore at the sails
      before he rose and talked to it—

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was—
     a thousand times more frightening
         than the killer storm.


The spirit is so near
that you can’t see it!
But reach for it…
don’t be a jar, full of water,
whose rim is always dry.
Don’t be the rider who gallops all night
and never sees the horse
that is beneath him.
— Rumi


Walking Water — Wyatt Townley

Inside us the ocean
sways like a cradle
in which we rock     rock  

and are drawn like the tide
to the moon twice a day
we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs
foot by foot on the turning
mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie
walking water on the road
up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us
through the window to the woods
rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair
and that one you’re in
water walking

and what is solid is not at all
what we thought     the rock
worn away by the rocking


Resources to understand the setting of the Gospel of John:

WATER MEDITATIONS

…water is one of those symbols that shows up over and over again in the Bible. Richard Rohr says it’s a bookmark: that whenever you see the word “water”, you know that it signals an invitation from God, a sign of an opening into a spiritual experience. Baptism, the Israelites crossing through the Red Sea into freedom. — Kathleen McShane (full article)

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
— Rumi

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. — Alan Watts  

The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move. — Aleksandr Popov

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

WALKING on WATER REFLECTIONS

We didn’t build our bridges simply to avoid walking on water. Nothing so obvious. A bridge is a meeting place. A neutral place. A casual place. Enemies will choose to meet on a bridge and end their quarrel in that void… For lovers, a bridge is a possibility, a metaphor of their chances. And for the traffic in whispered goods, where else but a bridge in the night? — Jeanette Winterson

To walk on water, we need reliable guides. — Robert Vande Kappelle

In God’s eyes, walking on water is no more miraculous than the ability of hemoglobin to bond with oxygen inside a red blood corpuscle. — Deepak Chopra

You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help? — Mark Twain

Walking on water wasn’t built in a day. — Jack Kerouac

For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time, we swim in mercy as in an endless sea. — Psalms

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s high, and there’s high, and to get really high–I mean so high that you can walk on the water, that high–that’s where I’m goin’. — George Harrison

A Word from Jesus calms the sea,
The stormy wind controls;
And gives repose and liberty
To tempest-tossed souls.

To Peter on the waves he came,
And gave him instant peace;
Thus he to me revealed his name,
And bid my sorrows cease. Then filled with wonder, joy and love,
Peter’s request was mine;
Lord, call me down, I long to prove
That I am wholly thine.

Unmoved at all I have to meet
On life’s tempestuous sea;
Hard, shall be easy; bitter, sweet,
So I may follow thee. He heard and smiled, and bid me try,
I eagerly obeyed;
But when from him I turned my eye,
How was my soul dismayed!

The storm increased on every side,
I felt my spirit shrink;
And soon, with Peter, loud I cried,
Lord, save me, or I sink.

Kindly he caught me by the hand,
And said, Why dost thou fear?
Since thou art come at my command,
And I am always near.

Upon my promise rest thy hope,
And keep my love in view;
I stand engaged to hold thee up,
And guide thee safely through.

— John Newton

COMMENTARY on WALKING on WATER (referring to multiple Gospel versions of this story)

It’s been said that if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Sometimes getting out of the boat looks like showing up for another recovery meeting. Sometimes it looks like filling out hospital paperwork for an elderly neighbor. Sometimes it looks like making a casserole for the family down with the flu or offering free babysitting for the friend with a job interview. Sometimes it looks like jumping when it matters. What does “getting out of the boat” look like for you? What does it mean to “jump when it matters”? — Rachel Held-Evans

But all these characters in the walking on water story – the cautious ones in the boat, the brave one who walked for a time on water, the same one who is afraid and sinks and calls for help, and the ones who saw it all and confessed that Jesus is the son of God they are all actually equal in their relationship to
God because…all of these and you have one thing in common: they are those whom Jesus draws near saying “it is I, do not be afraid”. … But what happens on either side of his short little water walk? … In the storm Jesus is walking toward the boat … Jesus is reaching … he comes so much toward them all that finally he just gets in the damn boat. That’s about as with them as he can be. … the whole story is about how much Jesus walks toward them, reaches toward them, and then even gets in the boat with them. — Nadia Bolz-Weber (full sermon)

God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too. … Sometimes I will sit on a sun-warmed rock to dry, and think of Peter walking across the water to meet Jesus. As long as he didn’t remember that we human beings have forgotten how to walk on water, he was able to do it. — Madeline L’Engle

This is not what I bargained for, not the way I pictured it all in my head as I prepared to step out of the boat … The waves no longer seem inviting — they are a bit scary and unwelcoming. The boat seems much warmer, stable, secure, and yes — safe. Faith in me reminds me that it’s all an illusion — all the trappings and walls and safeguards we wrap around ourselves are really just as flimsy as a wooden boat on a stormy sea and that walking on water with Jesus is — in a reality that I can’t fully see yet — actually safer… Now is not the time for me to make the pro/con list — in fact, that list may never work for a life of faith. Now is the time for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and refuse to look down. My feet are wet and cold and I keep glancing back to a boat I can no longer return to but I don’t know what lies ahead… When we obey in faith, there is often an in-between space called liminal space. This is the space after we take our big step of faith out of the boat and come ahead with Jesus and before He shows us what’s next. It’s the time between what was and the next chapter of our journey. It’s a transition phase where we no longer fit where we were but don’t yet fit where we’re going. It can feel barren or we can choose to harness that time. It’s a waiting room, a threshold as we embark on something new... This liminal space feels like I’m trying to walk on water in the middle of the night. It’s dark. There are no road signs or directions — only the faint persistent memory of how certain I was when I stepped out. I am aware that God is near but the wobbliness of the water beneath my feet feels so foreign that I wonder how this can be a safe place in God’s will.— Mary Gallagher (full article)

It is true that Jesus was already walking on water when Peter got out of the boat. But I am not that impressed by Jesus walking on water.  I mean, he was God, after all. Of course, he could walk on water. But for Peter, it is different. He was a human being, like me. And I identify with Peter. He made a lot of mistakes. He sometimes misunderstood Jesus’ teachings. He argued with the other disciples about which one was the greatest. He wanted to build housing for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the sacred ground of the Mount of Transfiguration, completely misunderstanding the message that Moses and Elijah had brought. He tried to talk Jesus out of sacrificing his life and balked at Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. He fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus as about to be crucified and, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him three times. And when Jesus ordered him to walk on water, he did it trustingly for a while, then he became fearful and went under. Jesus had to “save” him. Yet Peter was the first disciple to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the first to realize that the man walking on water through the storm that day was Jesus. He was the only disciple to get out of the boat and he did walk on water, even if he eventually succumbed to his doubts and started to sink. As a disciple, Peter followed Jesus wholeheartedly and was dismayed by the dumb things he sometimes did. I believe it was both because of his mistakes and his faithfulness that Jesus designated him as the Rock on which he would build his church… I love the story of Peter walking on water because it is about taking spiritual risks and about faith and hope and trust. I feel as if I have spent a lot of my life walking on water, spiritually, psychologically, and materially. Sometimes I have felt as if I was sinking, too.
     I also love the story because it so dramatically captures the concept of liminal space. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word for “threshold” and liminal space refers to an in-between or transitional condition in which one is “neither here nor there,” or, sometimes, both here and there. Peter has left the boat but has not arrived anywhere yet. He is in transition. He is in a liminal space. — Jacqueline Wallen (full article)

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 on mountain, wind, fire, quake and silence: themes from 1 Kings.

Holiness, not in the fire, wind or quake, but in the silence that comes after: It is about sweeping in when we are too comfortable and moving us out of those places we cling to when we fear the unknowns and try to avoid the pain and injustice around us.  It is about empowering us to do the things that so many others – and even sometimes our own systems – have told us we cannot do because of our gender, age, or economic situation, our education status, color of skin, or sexual orientation. It is about equipping ALL of us to be prophets by speaking truth, spreading love, and fighting for justice and equality for all of God’s children. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Song: The Climb performed by Miley Cyrus (video link)

Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
Li Po, Translated by Sam Hamill
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

To me a mountain is a buddha. think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin. ― Jack Kerouac

Continue reading “Reflections on mountain, wind, fire, quake and silence: themes from 1 Kings.”

Reflections: Themes of doubt & faith, walking on water, risking, reaching & calling.

FAITH Frances Anne Kemble
Better trust all, and be deceived,
   And weep that trust, and that deceiving;
Than doubt one heart, that, if believed,
   Had blessed one’s life with true believing.
Oh, in this mocking world, too fast
   The doubting fiend o’ertakes our youth!
Better be cheated to the last,
   Than lose the blessèd hope of truth.

DOUBTAugustine Bowe
Faith can move mountains
Let the mountains be.
For when mountains stir,
There is no peace, even in the sea.

Doubt dares not touch
The heft of stone,
For fear it’s better, much
Better to leave things alone.


Walking on Water

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hahn

When it comes to your life’s work, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Even Jesus had an occasional joke with the boys, take walking on water, for instance – but there’s a time and place for fun. Jesus never faltered when it came time to tip over the money stalls or to take his hard walk up the mountain. — Deacon Jones

Isn’t it instructive that the spiritual formation of the original disciples happens with Jesus on the road? In effect, the disciples learn by doing. They grow into an understanding of this God of love, this God of compassion, this God who loves justice, this God who makes all things new, by participating as active observers and agents of compassion, justice, and newness. … But the spiritual adventure described in the four Gospels does not happen in the sanctuary; it happens on the road, in the company of beggars, prostitutes, and lepers. — Jack Jezreel, Oneing

In God’s eyes, walking on water is no more miraculous than the ability of hemoglobin to bond with oxygen inside a red blood corpuscle. — Deepak Chopra

Walking on water wasn’t built in a day. — Jack Kerouac

We look at the ancient Greeks with their gods on a mountain top throwing lightning bolts and say, ‘Those ancient Greeks. They were so silly. So primitive and naive. Not like our religions. We have burning bushes talking to people and guys walking on water. We’re …sophisticated.’ — Paul Provenza

You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help? — Mark Twain

Jesus Christ would have been considered just another long-haired hippie freak if he hadn’t been crucified. The folks weren’t impressed with healing the sick, feeding the multitudes bread and fish or anything else, except maybe the walking on water. But when he got crucified, that gave him his big start. — Ted Turner

Now I understand. Everything is water. — Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory

Helping Hands: Reaching for Connection

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’ ‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.'” — A.A. Milne‘I felt Holmes’s hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring shake.’ – Watson. — Arthur Conan Doyle

Sooner or later, life is going to lead you (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the whale, into a place where you can’t fix, control, explain, or understand (usually very concrete and personal; it cannot be merely theoretical). That’s where transformation most easily and deeply happens. That’s when you’re uniquely in the hands of God because you cannot “handle” it yourself. — Fr. Richard Rohr

Doubt & Faith

I talk to God but the sky is empty. — Sylvia Plath

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. — Paul Tillich

There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man. — Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

Do not be afraid; our fate Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift. — Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving. — Frederick Buechner

For to have faith, is to have wings. — J.M. Barrie

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