Reflections on questions & doubt: Thomas as a model of curiosity, questioning, and courage

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


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

I think the trouble with me is lack of faith… often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. – C.S. Lewis

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! ― Douglas Adams

Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one. ― Voltaire

Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?… We’ve all experienced this, me too. – Pope Francis

… the Old Testament, which is where many of the questions (and questioners) are. The Old Testament proves that God honors questioners. Remember, grumpy Job emerges as the hero of that book, not his theologically defensive friends. — Philip Yancey

Songs about DOUBTS & QUESTIONS:

A Sonnet for St. Thomas the Apostle
Malcolm Guite

“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
 

QUESTIONING: An Act of Faith

When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations.  I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible.  God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. — Philip Yancey

In other words, no matter how strong our faith is, at some point we may experience doubt. But instead of being a sign of weakness, doubt can actually be something that causes us to dig deeper into our relationship with God, and can even make our faith stronger. — Jesse Carey

Certainty is so often overrated. This is especially the case when it comes to faith, or other imponderables. — Julia Baird

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith… Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful. – Paul Tillich

Belief in God does not exempt us from feelings of abandonment by God. Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God. – Eugene Peterson

Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. – John Calvin

I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.  – Charles Spurgeon

The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”– Madeleine L’Engle

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. – Brennan Manning

We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt. – Dallas Willard

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.‘  — C. S. Lewis

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. — Anne Lamott

Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them … If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God … The torture and pain I can’t explain. — St. Mother Teresa

For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God. — Martin Luther

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble … Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. — Charles Spurgeon

If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. ― Yann Martel

COMMENTARY on THOMAS as a DOUBTER

Here’s my simple contention about this passage: Thomas is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Think about it. Everything we know about Thomas up to this point suggests that he is forthright, genuine, and even courageous …
      Thomas, I would contend, is at heart a pragmatist, one who likes his truth straight up and who relentlessly takes stock of the situation before making a decision.
     
Which leads me to believe that what changes when Thomas is confronted by the risen Lord is not that he is no longer a doubter – he never really was – and certainly not his realism. No, what changes is his perception of reality itself. Of what is possible. Of what God can do. Even of what God can do through him….
     Jesus comes and takes his mocking words and turns them back on him, not to humiliate or scold him, but simply to confront him with the possibility that his reality was too small, his vision of what is possible too limited. And when Jesus calls him to faith, he’s actually inviting him to enter into a whole new world. …
      And this issue of having too small a vision of reality is what I find interesting. Because I also fall into a worldview governed by limitations and am tempted to call that “realism.” Which is when I need to have the community remind me of a grander vision. A vision not defined by failure but possibility, not governed by scarcity but by abundance, not ruled by remembered offenses but set free by forgiveness and reconciliation …
    There are, I suspect, a lot of Thomases in our congregations…. who should not have to surrender their sense of realism, but instead be invited to a whole new reality that God created  — David Lose

So, two things I noticed and wondered about when reading this passage.
     First, Thomas only asks to see what the other disciples have already seen. … Thomas asks for no extraordinary proof to move his extraordinary doubt, but only requests what the others had already been given.
    Second, is Thomas’ reaction one of doubt or realism? Might it be that Thomas was, above all else, a realist? And that reality had come as never before ….— David Lose

This week’s gospel lection offers us a secret room, and, with it, an invitation to touch, to cross more deeply into Jesus’ story and our own… History has labeled this disciple Doubting Thomas, as if his uncertainty were the most memorable thing about this follower of Jesus who, elsewhere, is the first to step up and say he is willing to die with him Yet Jesus, as is his way, gives Thomas what he needs  — Jan Richardson

I was reminded that in the story of the raising of Lazarus, Thomas is the one—the only one—who steps forward and expresses his willingness to die with Jesus. In this week’s reading, Thomas once again crosses into a place where others have not ventured: into the very flesh of the risen Christ… The wounds of the risen Christ are not a prison; they are a passage. Thomas’s hand in Christ’s side is not some bizarre, morbid probe: it is a union, and a reminder that in taking flesh, Christ wed himself to us.— Jan Richardson

Inventory ― Dorothy Parker
Four be the things
I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow,
a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things
I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity,
freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things
I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and
sufficient champagne.
Three be the things
I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope
and a sock in the eye.

ON DOUBT

We learn from failure, not from success! ― Bram Stoker

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. ― René Descartes

Doubt everything. Find your own light. ― Gautama Buddha

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.― William Shakespeare

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse. – Blaise Pascal

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.
― George Carlin

Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess. ― Walt Whitman

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrased, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. ― Rainer Maria Rilke

THE GIFT of DOUBT —from Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)

As Voltaire remarked, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
      The problem is that certitude seduces us. It enables us to believe that what was said to be true is true because someone else said so. It simply cuts off thought. It arrests discussion in midflight. And yet we yearn for it with a passion. We spend endless, sleepless nights grappling with intellectual options in order to wiggle them into a satisfying kind of certainty without so much as a scintilla of evidence.
     Rulers of all stripe and type dispense certainties—theirs—with great abandon. They do whatever it takes—define cultural dogmas, assert organizational doctrines, impose decrees, and use power, force and penal systems—to suppress the ideas of anyone who dares to question them. Ideas, after all, are dangerous things. Ideas have brought down as many myths and mysteries as they have toppled kingdoms.
     But there is another way to live that runs hot and bright through darkness. There are always some in every population who know that life is not meant to be about certainty. Life, they realize, is about possibility. They see certitude as a direction but not an end.
     Doubt is what shakes our arrogance and makes us look again at what we have never really looked at before. Without doubt there is little room for faith in anything. What we accept without question we will live without morality. It is in populations like this that monarchs become dictators and spiritual leaders become charlatans and knowledge becomes myth.
     An ancient people tell the story of sending out two shamans to study their holy mountain so that they could know what their gods expected of them. The first shaman came back from the north side of the mountain to tell them that it was covered with fruit trees, a sign that their god would always bless them abundantly. The second shaman came back from the south side of the mountain to tell the people that it was barren and covered with rock, a sign that their god would always be with them but intended them to take care of themselves. So, which shaman was right? If both, then it is dangerous to dogmatize either position.
     It is doubt, not certitude, that enables us to believe, because it requires us to think deeply about an entire subject, and not simply depend on the side of reality that is on our side of the mountain. Only when we look beyond absolutes to understand every level of life can we possibly live life to the fullest, with the deepest kind of insight, with the greatest degree of compassion for others.
     Voltaire was right, of course. Certainty is comfortable but always unlikely and forever disruptive. As life changes so must our explanation and response to it.

The Blessing of Thomas
— Maren Tirabassi

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” — John 20:29b

Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him, this eastertide,
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.
Blessed are those who don’t need a choir to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.
Blessed are those who really touch
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.
But also blessed is the Thomas in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else, and who wants to feel
not Jesus’ long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.
Blessed is the Thomas in all of us, who lives with doubts and hopes,
and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.

Reflections on being seen and supported (or not) by family and community as you come home changed, or as you embark on a journey, a mission, a life’s adventure

And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of  it…all of  it is completely worth it. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

The prophet is the eye of the people. ― Lailah Gifty Akita 

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. — Matsuo Basho 

What is a Man / Woman who does not try and make the World Better? ― ‘Kingdom of Heaven ‘ the movie 

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin,
and in their own house. — Gospels of Mark & Luke, Bible

It’s kind of spooky when you are caught talking to God everybody thinks you’re nuts. They used to call you a prophet. ― Paul Zindel

SONGS about COMING HOME:

So where are you from? What are the places, the people, the experiences that formed your path? What holds your roots? How does where you’re from help you understand who you are? How does it enable you to make a way for the one who comes in this and every season? — Jan Richardson

Where to Go with “Where I’m From” — George Ella Lyon (more info: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html)

… you can also see it as a corridor of doors opening onto further knowledge and other kinds of writing. The key is to let yourself explore these rooms. Don’t rush to decide what kind of writing you’re going to do or to revise or finish a piece. Let your goal be the writing itself. Learn to let it lead you. … Look for these elements … and see where else they might take you:

  • a place could open into a piece of descriptive writing or a scene from memory.
  • your parents’ work could open into a memory of going with them, helping, being in the way. Could be a remembered dialogue between your parents about work. Could be a poem made from a litany of tools they used.
  • an important event could open into freewriting all the memories of that experience, then writing it as a scene, with description and dialogue. It’s also possible to let the description become setting and directions and let the dialogue turn into a play.
  • food could open into a scene at the table, a character sketch of the person who prepared the food, a litany of different experiences with it, a process essay of how to make it.
  • music could take you to a scene where the music is playing; could provide you the chance to interleave the words of the song and words you might have said (or a narrative of what you were thinking and feeling at the time the song was first important to you (“Where I’m Singing From”).
  • something someone said to you could open into a scene or a poem which captures that moment; could be what you wanted to say back but never did.
  • a significant object could open into a sensory exploration of the object-what it felt, sounded, smelled, looked, and tasted like; then where it came from, what happened to it, a memory of your connection with it. Is there a secret or a longing connected with this object? A message? If you could go back to yourself when this object was important to you, what would you ask, tell, or give yourself?

Remember, you are the expert on you. No one else sees the world as you do; no one else has your material to draw on. You don’t have to know where to begin. Just start. Let it flow. Trust the work to find its own form.

Where I’m From  George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.
 


Where I’m From — Jan Richardson

I am from orange groves
and old Florida,
from a house my parents built
in a field my grandfather gave them.
Black-eyed Susans grew there in the spring,
so thick we played hide and seek
simply by kneeling among them.

I am from a town
with more cows than people,
from Judy and from Joe,
from generations that have grown up
in one place.

I am from peanut butter and
honey sandwiches every morning,
from my grandmothers’ kitchens,
from Thanksgiving feasts in the
community park,
from Christmas Eves in the
white painted church
among the pine trees.

I am from the dictionary we kept
by the dinner table
where we ate words like food,
from hours and days in libraries,
from miles of books.
I am from the path they have made.

I am from solitude and silence,
from the monks and mystics who lived
between the choir and the cell,
from the scribes bent over their books,
from parchment and paint,
from ancient ink and from gold
that turned pages into lamps,
into light.

I am from women less quiet,
women of the shout and the stomp,
testifying wherever they could make
their voices heard.
I am from Miriam and Mary and Magdalena
and from women unknown and unnamed,
women who carried their prayers
not in books
but in their blood
and in their bones,
women who passed down the sacred stories
from body to body.

I am from them,
listening for their voices,
aching to hear,
to tell, to cry out,
to make a way for those
yet to come.

Longing for Prophets — Shirley Kaufman
Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don’t care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from these hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we’ve cut on the sides of mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands. Let them
tell us what will come after.

How do you make room for those who challenge you to remember who God created you to be? What kind of holy space might God be wanting to create in your life? In you? Blessings to you as you discern where to extend a welcome, and where to receive one. — Jan Richardson

Advice to a Prophet — Richard Wilbur
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,Not proclaiming our fall but begging usIn God’s name to have self-pity, Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   The long numbers that rocket the mind;Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   Unable to fear what is too strange. Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   How should we dream of this place without us?—The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   A stone look on the stone’s face? Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   Of an undreamt thing, we know to our costHow the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   How the view alters. We could believe, If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip On the cold ledge, and every torrent burnAs Xanthus once, its gliding troutStunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return, These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   Ask us, prophet, how we shall callOur natures forth when that live tongue is allDispelled, that glass obscured or broken In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   Horse of our courage, in which beheldThe singing locust of the soul unshelled,And all we mean or wish to mean. Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

@@@

Three Travellers Tell Their Dreams — Rumi

Three devout men of different religions fall in together
by chance traveling. They stop

at a caravanserai* where the host brings as a gift a sweet
dessert, some taste of God’s

nearness. This is how people out in the country serve
strangers. The Jew and

the Christian are full, but the Muslim has been fasting all
day. The two say, “Lets

save it for tomorrow.” The one, “No. Let’s save self-denial
for tomorrow!” “You want it

all for yourself!” “Divide it into three parts, and each can
do as he wants.” “Ah,

but Mohammad said not to share.” “That was about dividing
yourself between sensuality

and soul. You must belong to the one or the other.” But finally
for some reason, he gives in,

“I’ll do it your way.” They refrain from tasting. They sleep,
and then wake and dress themselves

to begin morning devotions. Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman,
Zoroastrian, stone, ground,

mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the
mystery, unique and not to be

judged. This subject never ends! Three friends in a grand
morning mood. “Let us tell

what dreams we had last night; whoever has had the deepest
dreams, gets the halvah**.”

Agreed. The Jewish man begins the wanderings of his soul.
“Moses met me on the road;

I followed him to Sinai: an opening door, light within
light. Mount Sinai and Moses and

I merged in an exploding splendor, the unity of the prophets!”
This is a true dream. Many

Jews have such. Then the Christian sighs, “Christ took me
in his arms to the fourth

heaven, a pure vast region… I cannot say…” His also
deep. The Muslim, “Muhammad came

and told me where you two had gone. ‘You wretch!’ he said,
‘You’ve been left behind! You

may as well get up and eat something.'” “Noooo!” laugh the
Christian and the Jew. “How

could I disobey such glory? Would you not do as Moses and
Jesus suggest?” “You’re right,”

they say. “Yours is the truest dream, because it had immediate
effect in your waking life.”

What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* caravanserai: an inn surrounding a court in eastern countries where caravans rest at night

** halvah: a flaky confection of crushed sesame seeds in a base of syrup (as of honey)

Silent Prophet — Carl Dennis
It’s the last day, but I’m keeping the news to myself.If yesterday it made sense for letter carriersTo carry letters from door to door,The job still ought to be worth doing.Why tell what I know and risk a walkout?Let firefighters race to the last fire.Let platoons of police set up their last linesSo the factions that come to the demonstrationDo battle only in words and gestures. The day is different, but only for me,Knowing as I do that it offers the last chanceFor a cautious investor to resist his nature enoughTo back a grocery in a battered district,And the last chance for the would-be grocersTo open a bottle of good champagneIn the kitchen of the friend who’s led themThrough the small-print maze of the application.And now they’re toasting the months to comeScheduled to move the project alongFrom drawing blueprints to cutting ribbons.Shall I tell them their expectations are dreamsIf the dreams impart to the day contour and substance? Though silent, I’m rooting for them to let the dayExpand to include the days to be denied them.And I hope that the friend who’s pouringA final round in his kitchen isn’t disturbedAs his small apartment fills with the soundOf squeaking from across the hall, though yesterdayHe banged on his neighbor’s door for quiet.It’s his last chance to endorse a womanBent on learning from scratch to play the viola,To respect her for finding an hour a day for practice,As if raising two sons aloneAnd teaching civics at a high schoolNot renowned for civility weren’t enough. Should I sit on a stone and lamentThat the day is her last if it still contains,Scrolled up within it, the years she’ll needTo master the art of voicing feelingsNot now expressed, at home or in class,About the distance between the worldShe’d like to inhabit and the world she does? Some other prophet, convinced the futureDepends on the flow of time to give it substance,May decide to speak out. I’m keeping silentAs one of her sons sits at his deskDividing a page into reasons for leaving homeAnd reasons for staying. Now on this last dayIt seems that home is best defined as any regionOn earth that has much to teach him,And now as the region fit to receive the mostOf whatever he’ll have to offerAfter he learns where his talents lie.

There is a Zen story about a student who felt he hadn’t really received the deepest essence of his master’s teaching, and so he went to question him. His master replied, “On your way here, did you see the cypress in the courtyard?” Perhaps the student was not yet very mindful. The master was saying that if, on the way to see our teacher, we go past a cypress tree or a beautiful plum tree in blossom and we don’t really see it, then when we arrive in front of our teacher, we won’t see our teacher either. We shouldn’t miss any opportunity to really see our cypress tree. There are wonders of life we walk past every day, and yet we haven’t truly seen them. What is the cypress tree on the path you take to work every day? If you cannot even see the tree, how can you see your loved ones? How can you see God”? — Thich Nhat Hanh

WHO ARE PROPHETS? 

I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. — Nelson Mandela

My religion is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — Dalai Lama

I’m a storyteller, not a prophet. I’m just interested in a good story. —David Eddings

Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of  holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

A writer is not a prophet, is not a philosopher; he’s just someone who is witness to what is around him. And so writing is a way to… it’s the best way to testify, to be a witness. — J. M. G. Le Clezio 

I think that modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love. ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 

The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.  ― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. ― Socrates 

Holiness is the union we experience with one another and with God. Holiness is when more than one become one, when what is fractured is made whole. Singing in harmony. Breastfeeding a baby. Collective bargaining. Dancing. Admitting our pain to someone, and hearing them say, “Me too.” Holiness happens when we are integrated as physical, spiritual, sexual, emotional, and political beings. Holiness is the song that has always been sung, perhaps even the sound that was first spoken when God said, “Let there be light. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Being the soothsayer of the tribe is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. ― Anthon St. Maarten 

You do not need any preacher or prophet to learn about God. The teaching is spread on the trees and the mountains, on the stars and the river, on the Sun and the moon. The ultimate teaching is written in your heart. You just need to wake up and see. ― Banani Ray

In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. ― Albert Camus

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. — Book of Joel & Book of Acts, Bible

 Maybe I am a prophet. I really hope one day there will come Confucius, Muhammad, Buddha and Christ to see me. And we will sit at a table, taking tea and eating some brownies. — Alejandro Jodorowsky

Maybe that’s the way to tell the dangerous men from the good ones. A dreamer of the day is dangerous when he believes that others are less: less than their own best selves and certainly less than he is. They exist to follow and flatter him, and to serve his purposes.
     A true prophet, I suppose, is like a good parent. A true prophet sees others, not himself. He helps them define their own half-formed dreams, and puts himself at their service. He is not diminished as they become more. He offers courage in one hand and generosity in the other. ― Mary Doria Russell

The word “preacher” comes from an old French word, predicateur, which means prophet. And what is the purpose of a prophet except to find meaning in trouble? ― Marilynne Robinson

 If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you want is not a sceptre, but a hoe. The prophet does not rise to reign, but to root out the weeds. — St Bernard

It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make it in punishing. ― Joel Hayward

God is in every particle in the Universe. No religion, no prophet can make division on it. ― Amit Ray

Prophets will say things others will not say. God touches the prophet’s mouth. When God touches a person’s mouth, He puts power and authority in their words. ― John Eckhardt

… is the writer a prophet or priest – does he show the truth or serve the truth?…― John Geddes

Another way of judging the value of a prophet’s religious experience, therefore, would be to examine the type of manhood that he has created, and the cultural world that has sprung out of the spirit of his message. —  Muhammad Iqbal

Prophets do not bring new truth. Revelation is simply a revealing of what is already true and bringing it to bear upon our heart and soul. Revelation is based upon insight into the written Word of God, not into visions and dreams and prophecies. These other things are simply tools for expressing the Word, they are not the Word; no more than the water hose is water, it simply delivers the water. ― Chip Brogden

Our Prophet was a radical too- he fought against the injustices of his community and challenged the feudal order of his society, so they called him a radical. So what? We should be proud of that! — Abu Bakar Bashir

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, who he called God’s ‘spirit and word.’ — Ibrahim Hooper

How many more Christs, Buddhas, Tolstoys, Kings, Naskars have to rise, for humanity to have the revelation that, humanism is the greatest form of religiousness that any conscientious being can ever have! ― Abhijit Naskar

On my journey from the fantastical to the practical, spirituality has gone from being a mystical experience to something very ordinary and a daily experience. Many don’t want this, instead they prefer spiritual grandeur, and I believe that is what keeps enlightenment at bay. We want big revelations of complexity that validates our perceptions of the divine. What a let down it was to Moses when God spoke through a burning bush! But that is exactly the simplicity of it all. Our spiritual life is our ordinary life and it is very grounded in every day experience. For me, it is the daily practice of kindness, mindfulness, happiness, and peace. ― Alaric Hutchinson 

If Prophets and Messengers are the closest to godliness as any human is capable of being, and yet even they fail, how the f*ck can anyone, less than perfect, be so arrogant as to expect they will do better than a Prophet, or Messenger of G-D. ― Alejandro Carbajal Estrada 

I don’t want to pretend to be a prophet or a saint. I’m very conscious of my limitations. I know my flaws. — Norman Finkelstein

Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.― A.W. Tozer

COMMENTARY about JESUS PREACHING in SYNAGOGUE & BEING REJECTED in HOMETOWN

Prophets are not “guided and limited by in-group loyalties.” — Robert Tannehill

Preachers beware. This is what happens when you get the gospel right. — Will Willimon

After Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 he declares that they are fulfilled “today.” This is a remarkable claim since the passage in Isaiah is associated with the year of Jubilee – the time when the slaves would be set free and land returned to the original owner. N. T. Wright regularly points out that this prophetic text alludes to Lev. 25:8-12 and would have been understood as a reference to a new age of release and forgiveness for the nation (Simply Jesus, 75, for example). — Phillips Long

[Year of the Lord’s Favor]: This phrase is clearly reflective of the year of Jubilee, the year when all debts were to be forgiven, slaves were to be emancipated (Lev. 25:8-17), and the oppressed captives were to be given their freedom.This year was to occur once every fifty years, but it was seldom honored. Jesus proclaimed that this year was symbolic of Him because He is the one who forgives debts and gives freedom to humanity. That was absolutely stunning! It is noteworthy that the English words sins and debts are both translated from the Aramaic word hoba. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of sinners He is also speaks of debtors; when He speaks of the forgiveness of sins He also speaks of speaks of the forgiveness of moral and spiritual debts. — Bill Heinrich

Luke takes notice of Jewish practices, as when Jesus stood to read the Scriptures and the audience always stood to listen. This tradition is still practiced today. Following the reading from the Torah was a reading from the Prophets, which, in this case, was from the Book of Isaiah.  It was the cultural norm that, after He finished reading, He sat down to preach a sermon. What has been preserved by Luke most certainly is only a small segment of a much larger sermon presented by Jesus.
       … The tradition was that men of the congregation would take turns reading Scripture in the worship serviceunless there was a visiting guest, then he was given the honor to lead the service. The readings from the scrolls were continued from week to week and, in any three year cycle the entire Hebrew Bible was read.  That, in itself, was a difficult task to accomplish since there were no chapter and verse divisions.  Furthermore, there were no vowels and all the letters were run together.It is normally assumed that Jesus simply selected a text from Isaiah, read it, and applied it to Himself. Clearly, this was not the case. At the point where the reader of the previous Sabbath ended, that was the beginning point for the reader the following week.  The miracle lies in the fact that Jesus did not select the text, but His reading was the continuation from the reading of the previous Sabbath.  This was hardly a coincidence, but a miracle by a divine appointment.  One would hardly notice a miracle had occurred unless the order of synagogue worship was known. The custom of the day was as follows:

  1. The congregation would recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4), which was a short prayer. At the end, there was a moment of thoughtful silence which was when the worshipers “folded up the Shema.”
  2. A prayer followed.
  3. There was a reading from the Law (Parashah),
  4. There was a reading from the Prophets (Haphtarah).
  5. The reader would then give an explanation and life application to each reading.

— Bill Heinrich

Jesus didn’t come to bring vengeance, he came to close the book on vengeance. Jesus announced the Jubilee good news of pardon, amnesty, liberation, and restoration…but not vengeance. Jesus doesn’t bless revenge, he blesses mercy, and teaches that the mercy we show to our enemies is the mercy that will be shown to us… Does this mean there’s no divine judgment? Of course not. Certainly there is divine judgment, but it is a judgment based in God’s love and commitment to restoration. The restorative judgment of God gives no warrant to a schadenfreudeyearning to see harm inflicted on others. Jesus has closed the book on that kind of lust for vengeance. — Brian Zahnd

Even though we remember that Jubilee never fully reasserts the complete fairness and equality God desires, we look for places where justice is lacking, and places where efforts are underway to create more equity. When we see those efforts, we celebrate them. When we are able, we emulate them. When is it Jubilee? We’ll never see it. But we can access the ideal, just as the ancients did, by celebrating it, moving toward it, and dreaming of justice. — Melissa Bane Sevier

Jesus then provides two examples, well-known in Israel, of the prophet coming to the aid of outsiders:  the Zarephath widow and Elijah, and Elisha and Namaan the Syrian (1 Kgs 17:8-24, 2 Kings 5: 1-19).  In both cases, a prophet came to the aid of a gentile when there were people similarly in need in Israel. Luke probably means us to see an additional contrast:  The widow was on the margins of society and undoubtedly poor.  Naaman, on the other hand, was powerful–the commander of Syria’s army–but suffered from leprosy. In citing these two examples, not only is Jesus further identifying with the role of prophet–indeed, two of Israel’s greatest, Elijah and Elisha–but also telling his hometown people that they don’t get special treatment.  — John Petty

Jesus edited out vengeance, and this gives us a key to how Jesus read the Old Testament. And lest we think that Jesus’ omission of “the day of vengeance” was simply an oversight or meaningless, consider what Jesus says to the hometown crowd in the synagogue following his edited reading of Isaiah. Jesus recalls the stories of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper — Gentiles who instead of receiving vengeance from God, received provision and healing. Jesus is announcing the arrival of the Lord’s favor, but he is emphasizing that it is for everybody…even for Sidonians and Syrians, even for Israel’s enemies! Jesus is making clear that in bringing the Jubilee of God he is bringing it for everybody! — Brian Zahnd

Ramsay MacMullen has noted that one’s social pedigree would easily be known in the Greco-Roman world and that a description such as “carpenter” indicated lower class status [Roman Social Relations: 50 B.C. to A.D. 384]. At the back of his book he gives a “Lexicon of Snobbery” filled with terms used by literate and therefore upper-class Greco-Roman authors to indicate their prejudice against illiterate and therefore lower-class individuals. Among those terms is tekton, or “carpenter,” the same term used for Jesus in Mark 6:3 and for Joseph in Matthew 13:55. One should not, of course, ever presume that upper-class sneers dictated how the lower classes actually felt about themselves. But, in general, the great divide in the Greco-Roman world was between those who had to work with their hands and those who did not… If Jesus was a carpenter, therefore, he belonged to the Artisan class, that group pushed into the dangerous space between Peasants and Degradeds or Expendables… — John Dominic Crossan

Notice that they neither dispute that he has wisdom or that he performs mighty works; they are just dumbfounded that it comes from a hometown boy like Jesus. More than just a matter of familiarity breeding contempt, this comes from the ancient mentality that geographical and heredity origins determine who a person is and what his capacities will always be. They see Jesus as someone who is not merely exceeding expectations but rather is overreaching. — Juel

The refusal — or inability — of Jesus’ neighbors to accept his status confirms what the story has suggested thus far: the world’s standards of judgment appear to run headlong into God’s ways. Jesus does not measure up. The circumstances of his origin allow no way of accounting for the stories about him. His common beginnings do not fit the assessment that he is a prophet. The result is scandal and fear. The reaction of the people from his hometown also suggests that real insiders are not necessarily those who by birth or circumstance are closest to Jesus. In fact, those who ought to know best turn out to be the most incapable of insight.— Witherington

Reflections on the ‘log & speck’ or ‘beam & mote’ – judging & non-judging. Themes from Matthew 7 out of the Sermon on the Mount. Humor through images.

Contain all human faces in your own without any judgment of them — Rumi

It is much more difficult to judge yourself than it is to judge others. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

What is love? Love is the absence of judgment. — Dalai Lama

To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly as he or she is. — Fred Rogers

There is no value-judgment more important to a man no factor more decisive in his psychological development and motivation than the estimate he passes on himself. — Nathaniel Branden

There are no truer choices than those made in crisis, choices made without judgment. — Daniel Wilson

The organ of perception acts more readily than judgment. — Leonardo Da Vinci

Well, pray if you like, only you’d do better to use your judgment. — Leo Tolstoy

If you want to help somebody, make sure you’re coming from a place of clarity and complete non-judgment; that way, you can begin to understand their journey, too. — Mary Lambert

Without compassion, we will never know anyone or anything, not even our own story. Too much judgment, too many ideas and attitudes will stand in the way of the fundamental principle that we are similar to, connected with, and part of everything else. — Deena Metzger

SONGS about Judging & Not-Judging:


And light is mingled with the gloom,
And joy with grief;
Divinest compensations come,
Through thorns of judgment mercies bloom In sweet relief.
— John Greenleaf Whittier


PRAYER
God of all races, nations, and religions,
You know that we cannot change others,
Nor can we change the past.
But we can change ourselves.
We can join You in changing our only
And common future where Love “reigns”
The same over all.
Help us not to say, “Lord, Lord” to any nationalist gods,
But to hear the One God of all the earth,
And to do God’s good thing for this One World.
— Fr Richard Rohr

WHAT’S IN YOUR EYE?

As I pondered these verses, so many questions came to my mind.

  • Why is it we can see the faults of others, but we can’t see our own faults?
  • Who is supposed to tell me what my logs are – my kids, my husband, my parents, You God?
  • And how is that done? Is there an appropriate way to show me my faults?
  • Is there an appropriate way to show others their faults?
  • How should I prepare myself to hear bad news about myself?
  • Why do I feel the need to judge others for their faults?
  • Where does humility come into play here?
  • What if I perceive another person is in danger? Is it alright to tell them what their speck is?
  • What if they have a “log” in their eye? Why doesn’t the Bible talk about getting a log out of other people’s lives – only specks?
  • How do I get the log out of my own eye?
  • Am I a hypocrite?
  • Have I ever really prayed for God to show me my log?
  • Do I really want to hear what He might say?
  • Why does Jesus say speck and log versus specks and logs?

As you can see, these 5 verses brought a lot more questions to my mind than there are verses.  And if I thought beyond the few minutes it took to come up with these questions, I could probably double the amount of questions that came quickly to the top of my head. — Patti Greene (full text: https://greenepastures.org/the-speck-and-the-log-matthew-71-5/)

… there’s all this stuff about the final judgment. You know what the final judgment is to me? It’s God dying on the cross and saying: forgive them; they know not what they’re doing. That’s an eternally valid statement to me. That is God’s judgment upon us. And so, to me, if God could bear that kind of suffering and only respond in forgiveness and love, that’s the God who is present in a devastating hurricane, in that room with an abused child. So to me, God has come into the world and is bearing that, not causing it. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

God’s freely given grace is a humiliation to the ego because free gifts say nothing about me. Only the soul can understand grace. The ego does not know how to receive things freely or without logic. It likes to be worthy and needs to understand in order to accept things as true. The ego prefers a worldview of scarcity or quid pro quo, where only the clever can win. That problem, and its overcoming, is at the very center of the Gospel plot line. It has always been overcome from God’s side. The only problem is getting us in on the process! That very inclusion of us is God’s humility, graciousness, and love. Only inside an economy of grace can we see that God wants free and willing partners. An economy of merit cannot process free love or free anything. “Not servants, but friends” (John 15:15) is God’s plan. Yet to this day, most Christians seem to prefer being servants. Divine friendship is just too much to imagine. — Fr. Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/mercy-before-judgment-2016-01-24/)

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself… — Fr Richard Rohr (full article: https://cac.org/solidarity-instead-of-judgment-2020-09-20/)

JUDGMENT & NON-JUDGMENT

Be curious, not judgmental. — Walt Whitman

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event, God’s judgment will always be in the light of his mercy”—which is infinite! — Pope Francis

Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. ― Bryan Stevenson

Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them — Byron Katie

Such as every man is inwardly so he judgeth outwardly. — Thomas A Kempis

In its highest form, not judging is the ultimate act of forgiveness. ― John Kuypers

To celebrate someone else’s life, we need to find a way to look at it straight on, not from above with judgment or from below with envy. ― Sharon Salzberg

No one can occupy your generosity except you. Who can occupy your patience when impatience roars through you? Who except you can choose not to act with judgment when all of your thoughts are judgmental? Your life is yours to live, no matter how you choose to live it. When you do not think about how you intend to live it, it lives you. — Gary Zukav

The more you look into and understand yourself, the less judgmental you become of others. — Tariq Ramadan

But over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgment and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.— Ann Patchett

Just as the sun shines on every soul, let your light of compassion shine on everyone irrespective of who they are and what they believe. ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Imagine learning at such a young age that your very appearance – your very identity – is enough to trigger such confusion and animosity. Imagine knowing that people will hate you for no reason other than you are who you are. —Thomas Beatie

Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes. ― Steve Goodier

f your knowledge teaches you not to rise above human weakness and misery and lead your fellow man on the right path, you are indeed a man of little worth and will remain such till Judgment Day. — Khalil Gibran

Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. It is cultivated by refining our capacity to pay attention, intentionally, in the present moment, and then sustaining that attention over time as best we can. In the process, we become more in touch with our life as it is unfolding. — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes, I have my standpoint, but I try to follow the life of Christ and he was very non-judgmental. It’s not my position to judge. It’s God’s position to judge. — Donny Osmond

Recognizing our own mistakes helps us to empathize non-judgmentally with others and helps enable us to understand their issues. — Jay Woodman

I want to get comfortable with my insecurities until I am no longer insecure. I want to be comfortable in my skin so that I do not need to dump any of my discomfort onto someone else in the form of judgment. — Damien Rice

We experience it as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, and intimacy. — Marianne Williamson

Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough. — Mary McLeod Bethune

When you force a man to act against his own choice and judgment, it’s his thinking that you want him to suspend. You want him to become a robot.— Ayn Rand

I am humanly unable to correct my negative self-image until I encounter a life-changing experience with non-judgmental love bestowed upon me by a Person whom I admire so much that to be unconditionally accepted by Him is to be born again. — Robert Schuller

Thoughts on farewell, being left behind, waiting, and ascending to heaven: themes from Acts 1

Stay  Jan Richardson
A Blessing for Ascension Day

I know how your mind rushes ahead
trying to fathom what could follow this.
What will you do, where will you go, how will you live?

You will want to outrun the grief.
You will want to keep turning toward the horizon,
watching for what was lost to come back,
to return to you and never leave again.

For now hear me when I say
all you need to do is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another is to stay.

Wait and see what comes
to fill the gaping hole in your chest.
Wait with your hands open to receive what could never come
except to what is empty and hollow.

You cannot know it now, cannot even imagine
what lies ahead, but I tell you the day is coming
when breath will fill your lungs
as it never has before and with your own ears
you will hear words coming to you new and startling.
You will dream dreams and you will see the world ablaze with blessing.

Wait for it. Still yourself. Stay.

Songs about Ascension:


Questions to consider about re-entering ‘real’/daily life and waiting for the arrival or support and help … themes from Acts 1: 6-10:

  • Can you name peak moment(s) or mountain-top experience(s) in your life?
  • When you re-enter daily life, after pinnacle moments, how are you changed? What do you carry with you from such times?
  • Can you retain or cultivate some of the blessings or gifts of such exceptional times? What practices help you do so?
  • When you’re told to wait for something to come … told to ‘shelter in place’ until the resources you need arrive … what is that like? Waiting? Preparing? What is difficult about waiting? What opportunities does a period of waiting offer?
Meditations on Farewell & Being Left Behind

If we have grown weary in this season. If we have become overwhelmed. If we are living with fear or anxiety or worry about what lies ahead. If the swirl … has become intense. If time is moving strangely. If grief has been a traveling companion. If the ground beneath us has given way. If resurrection seems less than certain …  This is the day that calls us to breathe. This is the day that invites us to make a space within the weariness, the fear, the ache. This is the day that beckons us to turn toward one another, and to remember we do not breathe alone. — Jan Richardson

It is queer to be in a place when someone has gone. It is not two other places, the place that they were there in, and the place that was there before they came. I can’t get used to this third place or to staying behind. ― Elizabeth Bowen

For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-byes I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedershens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ‘Till we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking FarewellFarewell is a father’s good-bye. It is – ‘Go out in the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-bye (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-bye is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go – I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will over you’ and even – underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible – ‘I will be with you; I will watch you – always.’ It is a mother’s good-bye. But Sayonarasays neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-bye, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara. ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Thoughts on Waiting



The wait is long. My dream of you does not end. — Nuala o”Faolain

Behind every fear, there is a miracle waiting. — Marianne Williamson

We have to let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. — Joseph Campbell

Christian Commentary on Ascension

Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is transmuted and transformed by the glory of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is that the Christ is here—and always was! But now we have a story that allows us to imagine it just might be true. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He became the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What you choose now is exactly what you choose to be forever. God will not disappoint you. — Richard Rohr

I’ll be honest, Jesus, Ascension Day brings up some abandonment issues for me. I know you promised we wouldn’t be alone, that you would send a Helper and Advocate, full of power and truth and ready to guide, but let’s face it: the fire of the Spirit is the wild kind. One moment I sense that it’s blazing like the burning bush, the next it’s like it’s out with a poof. I still haven’t figured it out. I still haven’t been able to pin it down. —Rachel Held Evans

No, we’ll probably never physically see Jesus. But we can see the people that represent Jesus. The church community is the first thing that comes into my mind. We all represent Jesus in the good things we do. I mean, we’re not the perfect servants of God. Nobody is perfect. But we see people do good things for other people all the time… As a church community, wehelp, we serve God and otherstoo. We pray. We forgive and also ask to be forgivenThat’s just the little part of God inside of us that tells us to do good.  So WE are the Jesus of the Earth. — Katie from Ebenezer Lutheran

Thoughts on Ascension & Heaven

True change is within, leave the outside as it is. — Dalai Lama

Ascensions into heaven are like falling leaves … sad and happy all at the same time … Going away isn’t really sad … especially when your going enables a new kind of presence to be born. — Ernest Hemingway

The hunger to belong is not merely a desire to be attached to something. It is rather sensing that great transformation and discovery become possible when belonging is sheltered and true.— John O’Donohue

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. — Henry David Thoreau

At His Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and He keeps the door open for humanity to enter. — Oswald Chambers

Earth’s crammed with heaven… But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is. — Fred Rogers

There’s always another level up. There’s always another ascension. More grace, more light, more generosity, more compassion, more to shed, more to grow. — Elizabeth Gilbert

Ah, paths of the soul, mysterious ways of the heart! One must walk their full lengths before facing the supreme equation of Eternal Life. It is essential for you to live all their conflicts and to know them fully in the long process of spiritual ascension. — Andre Luiz Moreira

Jesus raised our eyes above and beyond the narrow limits of our … lives, showed us other horizons, gives us a world beyond our ourselves. — Joan Chittister

To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel uphill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh … Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. … Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected. … The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted. — Jonathan Edwards

Heaven is not an eternally dull existence but rather the completion of a journey toward a promised encounter with the Lord. — Pope Francis

The Ascension is actually the birth of the Inner You expressed as the spiritual individualism of the inner particle state. — Stuart Wilde

Aging is a staircase – the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity. As you may know, the entire world operates on a universal law: entropy, the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy means that everything in the world, everything, is in a state of decline and decay, the arch. There’s only one exception to this universal law, and that is the human spirit, which can continue to evolve upwards. — Jane Fonda

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fulness of blessing,” both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment. — Saint Basil

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


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