Meditations on building houses (and lives) on sand vs stones: stumbling blocks, cornerstones, keystones, living stones

MATTHEW 7: 24-28 – Hearers and Doers – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

How … bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be earth! — Rumi

Poet to Bigot — Langston Hughes
I have done so little / For you,
And you have done so little / For me,
That we have good reason / Never to agree.
I, however, / Have such meagre / Power,
Clutching at a / Moment,
While you control / An hour.
But your hour is / A stone.
My moment is / A flower.

And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. — Psalm 78:35

SONGS about Sand and Stones:


To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. — William Blake


Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground.
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.
― Rumi


The Stones – Wendell Berry
I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground,
shards of old sea-ledges, stumbling blocks
where the earth caught and kept them
dark, an old music mute in them
that my head keeps now I have dug them out.
I broke them where they slugged in the dark
cells, and lifted them up in pieces.
As I piled them in the light
I began their music. I heard their old lime
rouse in breath of song that had not left me.
I gave pain and weariness to their bearing out.
What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.


Do Stones Feel?  — Mary Oliver

Do stones feel? Do they love their life?
Or does their patience drown out everything else?

When I walk on the beach I gather a few
white ones, dark ones, the multiple colors.
Don’t worry, I say, I’ll bring you back, and I do.

Is the tree as it rises delighted with its many
branches, each one like a poem?
Are the clouds glad to unburden their bundles of rain?

Most of the world says no, no, it’s not possible.
I refuse to think to such a conclusion.
Too terrible it would be, to be wrong.



The Book of Camp Branch (excerpt) — Wendell Berry

How much delight I’ve known
in navigating down the flow
by stepping stones, by sounding
stones, by words that are
stepping and sounding stones.

Going down stone by stone,
the song of the water changes,
changing the way I walk
which changes my thought
as I go. Stone to stone
the stream flows. Stone to stone
the walker goes. The words
stand stone still until
the flow moves them, changing
the sound – a new word –
a new place to step or stand.

COMMENTARY on PARABLE of BUILDING a HOUSE on ROCK vs SAND

The picture is not of two men deliberately selecting foundations, but it contrasts one who carefully chooses and prepares his foundation with one who builds at hap-hazard. This is more strongly brought out by Luke (Luke 6:48): “Who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock” … — Vincent’s Word Studies (full artilcle)


In the practical order, we find our Original Goodness, the image of God that we are, when we can discover and own the faith, hope, and love deeply planted within us:

  • A trust in inner coherence itself. “It all means something!” (Faith)
  • A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
  • A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me. (Love)

… Being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) gives everyone an equal and inherent dignity. However, in every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, ableism, and classism. This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively, and from the beginning by God, we humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide… For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock” (Luke 6:48). When we start with yes (or a positive vision), we are more likely to proceed with generosity and hope, and we have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger yes, which we would call “resurrection.” — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


… what Jesus himself taught and spent most of his time doing: healing people, doing acts of justice and inclusion, embodying compassionate and nonviolent ways of living… Jesus was teaching an alternative wisdom that shakes the social order instead of upholding the conventional wisdom that maintains it. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not about preserving the status quo! It’s about living here on earth as if the Reign of God has already begun (see Luke 17:21). In this Reign, the Sermon tells us, the poor are blessed, the hungry are filled, the grieving are filled with joy, and enemies are loved. — Fr Richard Rohr (full article)


As in all hilly countries, the streams of Galilee rush down the torrent-beds during the winter and early spring, sweep all before them, overflow their banks, and leave beds of alluvial deposit on either side. When summer comes their waters fail (comp. Jeremiah 15:18; Job 6:15), and what had seemed a goodly river is then a tract covered with debris of stones and sand. A stranger coming to build might be attracted by the ready-prepared level surface of the sand. It would be easier to build there instead of working upon the hard and rugged rock. But the people of the land would know and mock the folly of such a builder, and he would pass (our Lord’s words may possibly refer to something that had actually occurred) into a by-word of reproach. On such a house the winter torrent had swept down in its fury, and the storms had raged, and then the fair fabric, on which time and money had been expended, had given way, and fallen into a heap of ruins. Interpreting the parable in the connection in which our Lord has placed it, it is clear that the house is the general fabric of an outwardly religious life. “The rock” can be nothing else than the firm foundation of repentance and obedience, the assent of the will and affections as well as of the lips. The “sand” answers to the shifting, uncertain feelings which are with some men (the “foolish” ones of the parable) the only ground on which they act—love of praise, respect for custom, and the like. The “wind,” the “rain,” the “floods” hardly admit, unless by an unreal minuteness, of individual interpretation, but represent collectively the violence of persecution, of suffering, of temptations from without, beneath which all but the life which rests on the true foundation necessarily gives way. Such is obviously the primary meaning of the parable here, but, like most other parables, it has other meanings, which, though secondary, are yet suggestive and instructive, and are not unsanctioned by the analogy of our Lord’s teaching. (1.) Already He had bestowed upon one of His disciples the name of Cephas, Peter, the Rock, and in so doing had at least indicated the type of character represented by the “rock” upon which the wise man built. When He afterwards said, “Upon this rock will I build my Church,” He was speaking in the character of a wise Master-builder who saw in fervent faith and unhesitating obedience the ground-work on which the Christian society, which He designated as His kingdom, was to rest. — Ellicott’s Commentary (full artilcle)


Palestine was to a considerable extent a land of hills and mountains. Like other countries of that description, it was subject to sudden and violent rains. The Jordan, the principal stream, was annually swollen to a great extent, and became rapid and furious in its course. The streams which ran among the hills, whose channels might have been dry during some months of the year, became suddenly swollen with the rain, and would pour down impetuously into the plains below. Everything in the way of these torrents would be swept off. Even houses, erected within the reach of these sudden inundations, and especially if founded on sand or on any unsolid basis, would not stand before them. The rising, bursting stream would shake it to its foundation; the rapid torrent would gradually wash away its base; it would totter and fall. Rocks in that country were common, and it was easy to secure for their houses a solid foundation. No comparison could, to a Jew, have been more striking. So tempests, and storms of affliction and persecution, beat around the soul. Suddenly, when we think we are in safety, the heavens may be overcast, the storm may lower, and calamity may beat upon us. In a moment, health, friends, comforts may be gone. How desirable, then, to be possessed of something that the tempest cannot reach! Such is an interest in Christ, reliance on his promises, confidence in his protection, and a hope of heaven through his blood. Earthly calamities do not reach these; and, possessed of religion, all the storms and tempests of life may beat harmlessly around us. — Matthew Henry’s commentary (full artilcle)


The teacher explained how each thing in the lesson had a much deeper meaning …— Gwen Schnell

  • The house is much more than just a house! It is like our life and what we do with it.
  • The storm-wind, rain, and floods are like troubles or problems that come into our lives, maybe like temptations.
  • The strong rock is like Jesus. He helps us when we are having troubles, like the storm. Jesus helps stay strong and do the right thing and trust in Him.
  • The soft sand is like worldly things. It’s whatever you may trust in INSTEAD of Jesus. It’s not strong or reliable. You will not find the help you need to be strong and do the right thing if you trust in anything or anyone but Jesus.
  • The wise man was someone who listened to Jesus and obeyed Him, the foolish man was someone who did not.

LIVING STONES: Definition, Context, Commentary

The term living stones … is used as a metaphor to illustrate the secure and intimate relationship … with Jesus … — Gotquestions.org (full article)

The lively stone is us — all who belong to Jesus — and the Living Stone is Jesus. — Shari Abbott

Wherever, in any world, a soul, by free-willed obedience, catches the fire of God’s likeness, it is set into the growing walls, a living stone. — Phillips Brooks

As we come together, each of us a living stone, we are built into something greater through the power of Jesus Christ. We are special and important and Christ is alive in us and waiting for us to actually be a living stone. To take risks and live and breath everything through the power of Jesus Christ. — Ministry Matters (full article)

The “rock-stone” image imagery is common in Scripture. As Hillyer says, “There is, for example, the stumbling stone of Isaiah 8:14, the foundation stone of Isaiah 28:16, the parental rock of Isaiah 51:1f., the rejected but vindicated building stone of Psalm 118:22, the supernatural stone of Daniel 2:34 and the burdensome stone of Zechariah 12:3” (Norman Hillyer, “Rock-Stone Imagery in 1 Peter”, The Tyndale Bulletin, 22 [1971] 58). There is fair evidence that “Rock/Stone” was a messianic title among the Jews as well as among the Christians…  — Edwin Blum

Four Stones — Mary Oliver

On the beach, at dawn:
Four small stones clearly
Hugging each other.

How many kinds of love
Might there be in the world,
And how many formations might they make

And who am I ever
To imagine I could know
Such a marvelous business?

When the sun broke
It poured willingly its light
Over the stones

That did not move, not at all,
Just as, to its always generous term,
It shed its light on me,

My own body that loves,
Equally, to hug another body.

SAND: Definition, Context, Commentary

… a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt, and is used in mortar, glass, abrasives, and foundry molds. — Merriam-Webster definition

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. Sand has various compositions but is defined by its grain size. Sand grains are smaller than gravel and coarser than silt… Sand is a non-renewable resource over human timescales …— Wikipedia

We see God separating that which is holy apart, and setting it aside for himself in many places in Scripture. But conversely, the Hebrew word for sand, חול (chol), is the same as the word for “secular” or “ordinary” – that which is not set aside or holy… The dense dusty sand that hung over Israel was a good reminder of how sin and worldliness works:

  • It clouds our vision and brings short-sightedness
  • It chokes and suffocates life
  • It makes it difficult to move up and out

— One for Israel (full article)

  … sand and gravel resources are the second-largest resource extracted and traded by volume after water.  — United Nations (full article)

CORNERSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

The cornerstone of something is the basic part of it on which its existence, success, or truth depends. — Collins Dictionary

In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction.Over the years, cornerstones have served a variety of purposes. As a means to preserve time, buildings have been marked with a numerical representation to remind people when the building was erected. This has given correlation to architecture and the design of the time. Additionally, cornerstones have become a strong symbol of a new era. They have indicated prosperity and opportunity—showing a sense of pride for what is possible at the time of construction. Cornerstones have also been turned into pieces of memorabilia, marking present buildings or denoting previously standing buildings. …
As the commemorative qualities of cornerstones have become recognized, the locations of craftsmanship have expanded to stones near or above the front door of a building. — New Studio Architecture (full article)

Since ancient times, builders have used cornerstones in their construction projects. A cornerstone was the principal stone, usually placed at the corner of an edifice, to guide the workers in their course. The cornerstone was usually one of the largest, the most solid, and the most carefully constructed of any in the edifice. The Bible describes Jesus as the cornerstone that His church would be built upon. He is foundational. Once the cornerstone was set, it became the basis for determining every measurement in the remaining construction; everything was aligned to it. As the cornerstone of the building of the church, Jesus is our standard of measure and alignment. — Gotquestions.org (full article)

A cornerstone (Greek: Άκρογωνιεîς, Latin: Primarii Lapidis) will sometimes be referred to as a “foundation-stone”, and is symbolic of Christ, whom the Apostle Paul referred to as the “head of the corner” and is the “Chief Cornerstone of the Church” (Ephesians 2:20) — Wikipedia

CAPSTONE or KEYSTONE: Definition, Context, Commentary

… it was the Roman civilization (1000 B.C.E. – 500 C.E.) that first began using a keystone (also called a capstone) in their arches. The keystone is the topmost stone in the arch. The one in the illustration on the right is exaggerated in size from what a normal keystone would be. The keystone helped to distribute the weight down the side supporting blocks (voussoir blocks) of the columns. With this design, the keystone is the “key” to supporting the arch, because if you remove the stone, the arch would collapse. — Ask a Biologist (full article)

Jesus is the keystone of creation; bringing order from non-order and providing a resolution for the problem of disorder introduced by sin. — RJS summarizing Jonathan Walton’s argument, Patheos.com (full article)

God next speaks of the “capstone” or “headstone.” Some people have assumed that this was a foundation stone, but it is not. God is speaking about finishing the temple, not starting it. This is not the cornerstone, which is installed in the foundation, but the finishing stone—the very last one set. It can also be called the gable stone or even the keystone that would finish an archway. It is a symbol of completion. In this case, it represents the Temple being sufficiently ready for God’s habitation. This ought to be clear. He is alluding to the preparation of the church for God’s Kingdom... their job of measuring the Temple, the altar, and the worshippers will be successful. They will be successful by”grace, grace”—double grace. Their work will be accomplished only by an extra measure of God’s grace.— Richard Ritenbaugh

Do not look only for the beautiful, water-polished stones that represent Christ’s abundant gifts and graces that He’s given you in the happy, simple, and easy times.  Look also for the rough-edged rocks, and even the huge boulders, that represent Christ’s presence, provision, and protection in the most difficult, trying, and troubling times of life. — Shari Abbott

STUMBLING BLOCK: Definition, Context, Commentary

  1 : an obstacle to progress 2 : an impediment to belief or understanding — Dictionary

During our step-work, every time we got to the fourth step—Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves—the women gave me a lot of pushback… They felt that … “what they’d done wrong” was the focus of many of their classes. It felt exhausting to them… It was not a punitive action… What if we can identify the thing that keeps us from enjoying life to its fullest? Can we look at this exercise as a diagnostic tool? … Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, writes, “If we take an honest look at the mistakes we’ve made, we’ll see that many of them were a reaction to an unnamed fear within us.” Twelve-steppers agree with that statement. We are told that our character defects (sin) are our instincts run amok… Once those fears have been identified, we have something on which to work. The goal of this work is reconnection…. — Jean Heaton, Noticing My Stumbling Blocks (full article)

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of anotherLet us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Paul’s Letter to Romans

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)

Sat, Nov 28 Gratitude Reflection

Pay attention to darkness. What are the gifts that darkness brings to you?

Shade provides respite from glaring light or extreme heat. Night permits sleep and rejuvenation. Shadows reveal depth.

Darkness is, in some ways, the absence of light and color. In other ways, it is the blending of many hues to create a deeper, richer palette. Darkness may be identified as the fecundity of the womb and the slow nurturing of the dormant earth in winter. Darkness is the home of starlight, the natural element through which all light moves.

What form of darkness feels significant today? The cozy dark of a beloved corner where you can tuck up and retreat? The vaulting depths of a night sky? The eternal emptiness of the unlit ocean? The secret darkness of a hiding place where a treasure might await you?

In our faith tradition, darkness is that fertile state of being, across with the Spirit moved, originating the creative dynamics that resulted in genesis. Life sprang out of darkness.

Give thanks for darkness. . — Rev Gail

He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and light dwells with him. —    Daniel 2:22

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
— Mary Oliver

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
— Rumi

Tue, Nov 24 Gratitude Reflection

Appreciate questions. Sometimes it is essential to dwell in the uncertainty of asking, the discomfort of not knowing. Sometimes we get a choice, as when we are students, and opt to learn. Other times, we are thrust into such situations, and must cope. Either way, this becomes a necessary skill: to be present to what we have not yet learned or thought, and to discover that there is much we do not yet understand.

            To ask, or to be asked, is to become vulnerable. When you inquire, you enter into a reciprocal relationship, expressing your own need for information or education, admitting you need support or assistance to attain the answer you seek. You acknowledge that, one way or another, you are seeking. You also turn to someone else for guidance toward an answer.

            Sometimes, simply by asking, you also discover that you know what is needed. That by articulating the question, you find insight within yourself.

            At the same time, to ask a question, or to be asked, is to become strong. When you embrace the state of uncertainty and not-knowing, you become more comfortable with growing and learning. To ask a question is to become more connected, to open yourself to the resources of a network of relationships. To be asked a question is to be honored or perceived as someone who serves as a guide or mentor.

            Appreciate that in the asking, or being asked, you do not have to know the answer. Sometimes it is best to acknowledge that you, too, will have to make inquiries in order to provide a solution or information. Or that if you are the one asking the question, be prepared with patience and humility, to wait for answers, or to receive only partial responses and incomplete understanding.

            Give thanks for questions. — Rev Gail

To you, O God of my ancestors,
    I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and power,
    and have now revealed to me what we asked of you,
    for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.
— Daniel 2:23-24

There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive? Dalai Lama

GRATITUDE (excerpt) — Mary Oliver
What did you notice?
What did you hear?
When did you admire?
What astonished you?
What would you like to see again?
What was most tender?
What was most wonderful?
What did you think was happening?

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