Blog

Here And Now

By Ken Woodley

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Those words comprise one of our favorite communion hymns. They come from the Gospel of Luke and are spoken by one of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus.

Confronting the crucifixion of Jesus is difficult at any time and even more disconcerting  a month before Christmas.

Death before life, in a way, prior to his life after death.

But don’t all of us have to die to something before we really live?

I need to die to my worrying about things too much, things I cannot control. My worrying keeps me from living fully in the moments of my life as Jesus and God wish that I would.

Jesus knows how easy it is for us worriers to be “nailed” to our anxieties, allowing them to become a cross we do not need to bear. I know I too often allow my worries to “crucify” my sense of peace and wellbeing, making it impossible to see the beauty that surrounds me.

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus constantly urges me during the Sermon on the Mount, “for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

I know that to be true, Lord, just as I know that whatever comes tomorrow will find you there right by my side.

My faith is strong but sometimes, no matter how hard I try, my fear is stronger.

“Jesus,” I call out, much like the criminal hanging on the cross beside the Lord, “remember me.”

And then I look over and Jesus does better than remember. Jesus is next to me, pulling out my nails of worry, taking me down from that moment of “crucifixion” and raising me up into God’s love and grace.

Resurrecting that moment in that day.

Just as Jesus is next to you in your own times of “crucifixion,” whatever they might be—we all have them; they are part of our human condition.

“Truly I tell you,” we hear Jesus say, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”

And a feeling of “paradise” is just what it feels like when we allow our worried minds to escape fear and ascend into the certain knowledge that we are loved by God.

As the author of Psalm 46 assures us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Not a “past” help.

A help right here and right now.

By Ken Woodley

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Those words comprise one of our favorite communion hymns. They come from the Gospel of Luke and are spoken by one of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus.
Confronting the crucifixion of Jesus is difficult at any time and even more disconcerting a month before Christmas.
Death before life, in a way, prior to his life after death.
But don’t all of us have to die to something before we really live?
I need to die to my worrying about things too much, things I cannot control. My worrying keeps me from living fully in the moments of my life as Jesus and God wish that I would.
Jesus knows how easy it is for us worriers to be “nailed” to our anxieties, allowing them to become a cross we do not need to bear. I know I too often allow my worries to “crucify” my sense of peace and wellbeing, making it impossible to see the beauty that surrounds me.
“Do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus constantly urges me during the Sermon on the Mount, “for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
I know that to be true, Lord, just as I know that whatever comes tomorrow will find you there right by my side.
My faith is strong but sometimes, no matter how hard I try, my fear is stronger.
“Jesus,” I call out, much like the criminal hanging on the cross beside the Lord, “remember me.”
And then I look over and Jesus does better than remember. Jesus is next to me, pulling out my nails of worry, taking me down from that moment of “crucifixion” and raising me up into God’s love and grace.
Resurrecting that moment in that day.
Just as Jesus is next to you in your own times of “crucifixion,” whatever they might be—we all have them; they are part of our human condition.
“Truly I tell you,” we hear Jesus say, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”
And a feeling of “paradise” is just what it feels like when we allow our worried minds to escape fear and ascend into the certain knowledge that we are loved by God.
As the author of Psalm 46 assures us: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Not a “past” help.
A help right here and right now.
And for that I give thanks.






Your Corner Of The Vineyard

By Ken Woodley

Wars and rumors of wars. Nation rising up against nation. Kingdom against kingdom. Earthquakes and famines.

Jesus certainly isn’t papering over the cracks presented by the reality of the world. But he’s no “doomsday” prophet, either.

It was not then, nor is it now, an easy world to live in with who knows what headline right around the corner.

But Jesus never ever tells his disciples to give up and stop striving to make the kingdom of heaven come just a little bit closer for a few more people. And so he isn’t telling us to do so, either.

The specific advice Jesus gives the disciples in today’s Gospel lesson is “do not be alarmed.”

That is often easier said than done. Certainly for me, anyway, as someone who can make a fine art out of anxiety.

But it becomes less difficult when we follow the example of Jesus and keep plugging away in God’s vineyard, pulling up weeds even though they come back next week.

It is, in fact, good for our peace of mind to keep tending the corner of God’s vineyard that has been entrusted to our care. 

No corner of the vineyard is unimportant. Every inch impacts somebody’s life in some way. 

And so it’s never a waste of time to drop to our knees and cultivate with our bare hands. 

To get dirty. 

Scraped and bruised as we dig out the rocks and plow the soil.

To plant the seeds God has given us for the harvest that only we can produce, a harvest without which something of goodness—a meaningful vintage from the vineyard—would be lost.

No, we aren’t likely to change the world. But there is every chance for something good that might make all the difference in the corner of the vineyard that God has given us.

And when we change a corner of the vineyard we change that part of the world and so the world, itself, is changed after all.

Despite the wars and rumors of wars and the nations and kingdoms and earthquakes and famines.

The most meaningful mountaintop experiences in life often happen—not on some glittering summit—but down in the darkened valleys, where we take the light God has given us and plant it in the vineyard.

Even if we feel alone and vulnerable with only a plowshare in our hands in a world filled with wars and rumors of wars.

In truth, we are never alone when we choose to work in God’s vineyard because the landowner’s son is with us.

The spirit of Jesus by our side. 

No, we won’t see him. We aren’t likely to hear him. But there are moments across the passing days of the flowing seasons where we sense his presence.

A warm feeling in our heart. A gentle ripple through our soul. Perhaps simply an unexpected smile from a stranger.

Jesus there, on his knees, too. 

His hands dirty and bruised. 

His sweat falling into the earth as we lift the heavier stones together, pull up the most stubborn weeds, and gently nurture the vines.

Cultivating more fruits for the kingdom.

Because every corner of the vineyard matters to God.

And Jesus cares about them all.

The vineyard is all around us but we are needed in the corner God has led us to. We are needed to plant not only our seeds in the soil, but ourselves, as well. 

Having faith that somehow, no matter how many people surrounding the vineyard have swords in their hands, our work with the spirit of Jesus by our side will some way, some day, bear fruits of the kingdom that would not have been possible had we kept our backs turned and our hearts headed in the opposite direction.

We may think we haven’t any experience with vineyards and wonder if we shouldn’t let someone with more expertise do the job. But we have far more experience with God’s vineyard than we know.

Because, in truth, there is a corner of God’s vineyard inside each and every one of us.

That place where God’s love and grace first grows fruits of the kingdom before we plant any of their seeds out in the world.

Nothing happens out in the world until it happens first in our hearts. Darkness leans toward the light when our hearts respond to God’s love and grace like a seed responds to rich soil, water and sunshine.

And, Jesus tells us over and over again, that is God’s most fervent wish.

For our own sakes, but also for others, because either the vines of the vineyard within us reach out into the world, or else the choking weeds do.

Wars and rumors of wars? Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom? It all sounds so terribly depressing. But, crucially, Jesus speaks of these as “but the beginnings of the birth pangs.”

What is actually going to be born into the world—the kingdom of heaven, or something else entirely—very much depends on each of us and what we do in our corner of the vineyard.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Each one of us is a God-carrier.”

If enough swords are turned into plowshares in enough corners of the vineyard then just maybe the nations and kingdoms will eventually join us.

Even if it’s just one person at a time. Starting with you and me.

Perhaps the only earthquake will be a seismic shift in love over hate and the only famine a lack of anything for the world’s darkness to feed upon.

Is the kingdom of heaven really likely to materialize around us as far as the eye can see? On most days, to be honest, I would answer, No.

But, honestly, every single solitary day I would say that it IS worth spending the rest of our lives believing in and working to achieve.

Because, with God, anything is possible.

And our faith in the work God has given each of us to do may be the tipping point that makes all the difference in the world.

All the difference ….. in the world.

By Ken Woodley


Wars and rumors of wars. Nation rising up against nation. Kingdom against kingdom. Earthquakes and famines.

Jesus certainly isn’t papering over the cracks presented by the reality of the world. But he’s no “doomsday” prophet, either.

It was not then, nor is it now, an easy world to live in with who knows what headline right around the corner.

But Jesus never ever tells his disciples to give up and stop striving to make the kingdom of heaven come just a little bit closer for a few more people. And so he isn’t telling us to do so, either.

The specific advice Jesus gives the disciples in today’s Gospel lesson is “do not be alarmed.”

That is often easier said than done. Certainly for me, anyway, as someone who can make a fine art out of anxiety.

But it becomes less difficult when we follow the example of Jesus and keep plugging away in God’s vineyard, pulling up weeds even though they come back next week.

It is, in fact, good for our peace of mind to keep tending the corner of God’s vineyard that has been entrusted to our care.

No corner of the vineyard is unimportant. Every inch impacts somebody’s life in some way.

And so it’s never a waste of time to drop to our knees and cultivate with our bare hands.

To get dirty.

Scraped and bruised as we dig out the rocks and plow the soil.

To plant the seeds God has given us for the harvest that only we can produce, a harvest without which something of goodness—a meaningful vintage from the vineyard—would be lost.

No, we aren’t likely to change the world. But there is every chance for something good that might make all the difference in the corner of the vineyard that God has given us.

And when we change a corner of the vineyard we change that part of the world and so the world, itself, is changed after all.

Despite the wars and rumors of wars and the nations and kingdoms and earthquakes and famines.

The most meaningful mountaintop experiences in life often happen—not on some glittering summit—but down in the darkened valleys, where we take the light God has given us and plant it in the vineyard.
Even if we feel alone and vulnerable with only a plowshare in our hands in a world filled with wars and rumors of wars.

In truth, we are never alone when we choose to work in God’s vineyard because the landowner’s son is with us.

The spirit of Jesus by our side.

No, we won’t see him. We aren’t likely to hear him. But there are moments across the passing days of the flowing seasons where we sense his presence.

A warm feeling in our heart. A gentle ripple through our soul. Perhaps simply an unexpected smile from a stranger.

Jesus there, on his knees, too.

His hands dirty and bruised.

His sweat falling into the earth as we lift the heavier stones together, pull up the most stubborn weeds, and gently nurture the vines.

Cultivating more fruits for the kingdom.

Because every corner of the vineyard matters to God.

And Jesus cares about them all.

The vineyard is all around us but we are needed in the corner God has led us to. We are needed to plant not only our seeds in the soil, but ourselves, as well.

Having faith that somehow, no matter how many people surrounding the vineyard have swords in their hands, our work with the spirit of Jesus by our side will some way, some day, bear fruits of the kingdom that would not have been possible had we kept our backs turned and our hearts headed in the opposite direction.

We may think we haven’t any experience with vineyards and wonder if we shouldn’t let someone with more expertise do the job. But we have far more experience with God’s vineyard than we know.

Because, in truth, there is a corner of God’s vineyard inside each and every one of us.

That place where God’s love and grace first grows fruits of the kingdom before we plant any of their seeds out in the world.

Nothing happens out in the world until it happens first in our hearts. Darkness leans toward the light when our hearts respond to God’s love and grace like a seed responds to rich soil, water and sunshine.

And, Jesus tells us over and over again, that is God’s most fervent wish.

For our own sakes, but also for others, because either the vines of the vineyard within us reach out into the world, or else the choking weeds do.

Wars and rumors of wars? Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom? It all sounds so terribly depressing. But, crucially, Jesus speaks of these as “but the beginnings of the birth pangs.”

What is actually going to be born into the world—the kingdom of heaven, or something else entirely—very much depends on each of us and what we do in our corner of the vineyard.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Each one of us is a God-carrier.”

If enough swords are turned into plowshares in enough corners of the vineyard then just maybe the nations and kingdoms will eventually join us.

Even if it’s just one person at a time. Starting with you and me.

Perhaps the only earthquake will be a seismic shift in love over hate and the only famine a lack of anything for the world’s darkness to feed upon.

Is the kingdom of heaven really likely to materialize around us as far as the eye can see? On most days, to be honest, I would answer, No.

But, honestly, every single solitary day I would say that it IS worth spending the rest of our lives believing in and working to achieve.

Because, with God, anything is possible.

And our faith in the work God has given each of us to do may be the tipping point that makes all the difference in the world.

All the difference ….. in the world.















God Is Hip To Our Song

By Ken Woodley

God must be a fan of jazz, a musical form that encourages individual freedom and creativity.

“Sing to the Lord a new song,” we are told in Psalm 98, “for he has done marvelous things.”

But what new song? What new notes? What key is this new song in? Does it have lyrics? If so, what are they? 

We aren’t told. There are pieces of advice, but it’s all very jazzy—and that means a lot of improvisation.

“Shout with joy … lift up your voice … sing to the Lord with the harp … with trumpets and the sound of the horn …”

Fairly standard stuff, in terms of jazz instruments, even though we have no idea what to play.

But then it gets jazzily surreal, a kind of otherworldly jazz-heaven-fusion.

“Let the sea make a noise,” we are advised.

The sea?

And not just the sea but “all that is in it.”

Wow. I’m not sure Miles Davis and John Coltrane could even do that.

But that’s not all.

“Let the rivers clap their hands.”

Okay … um … sure. But rivers don’t have hands.

“And let the hills ring out with joy.”

Please, yes, hills, do so whenever you’re ready. A one and a two and a three…

But what do we do?

We do this:

We play what we feel inside, our new song, our own unique notes and voice.

God is hip to the beat of our different drums.

God cheers on our improvisations, our polyrhythms, and our syncopation as we respond to the very real joys and the very tough challenges of living in a world that often seems fearsomely chaotic.

Life is nothing like the songs in our hymnals. All the notes we will need to sing have not been composed. We don’t even know how many people are going to be in the band, or how long we’ll be playing together.

But that’s okay.

There is a lot we do not know about the new songs we’ll need to play on life’s journey, but we do know what key to play those new songs in.

We play them in the key of God’s grace and love as shown us by Jesus. If we do that the new song will take care of itself.

Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel lesson from Luke as he advises those who may face trials and tribulations—arrested and brought before kings and governors to testify.

“Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance,” Jesus tells them. 

Compose nothing.

Trust, in other words, the jazz-like improvisation that will flow through you from the grace and love of God.

“I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict,” Jesus assures us.

So, pick up your trumpet and blow. The new notes will come, and there is no telling who the Holy Spirit will bring by your side to provide harmony.

When that happens, the walls—from Jericho to whatever dark moment surrounds you—will surely come tumbling down, revealing the way out, a path through life’s rubble and debris.

And what about the rivers?

Their clapping hands will be your joyous hill-ringing percussion.


By Ken Woodley

God must be a fan of jazz, a musical form that encourages individual freedom and creativity.
“Sing to the Lord a new song,” we are told in Psalm 98, “for he has done marvelous things.”
But what new song? What new notes? What key is this new song in? Does it have lyrics? If so, what are they?
We aren’t told. There are pieces of advice, but it’s all very jazzy—and that means a lot of improvisation.
“Shout with joy … lift up your voice … sing to the Lord with the harp … with trumpets and the sound of the horn …”
Fairly standard stuff, in terms of jazz instruments, even though we have no idea what to play.
But then it gets jazzily surreal, a kind of otherworldly jazz-heaven-fusion.
“Let the sea make a noise,” we are advised.
The sea?
And not just the sea but “all that is in it.”
Wow. I’m not sure Miles Davis and John Coltrane could even do that.
But that’s not all.
“Let the rivers clap their hands.”
Okay … um … sure. But rivers don’t have hands.
“And let the hills ring out with joy.”
Please, yes, hills, do so whenever you’re ready. A one and a two and a three…
But what do we do?
We do this:
We play what we feel inside, our new song, our own unique notes and voice.
God is hip to the beat of our different drums.
God cheers on our improvisations, our polyrhythms, and our syncopation as we respond to the very real joys and the very tough challenges of living in a world that often seems fearsomely chaotic.
Life is nothing like the songs in our hymnals. All the notes we will need to sing have not been composed. We don’t even know how many people are going to be in the band, or how long we’ll be playing together.
But that’s okay.
There is a lot we do not know about the new songs we’ll need to play on life’s journey, but we do know what key to play those new songs in.
We play them in the key of God’s grace and love as shown us by Jesus. If we do that the new song will take care of itself.
Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel lesson from Luke as he advises those who may face trials and tribulations—arrested and brought before kings and governors to testify.
“Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance,” Jesus tells them.
Compose nothing.
Trust, in other words, the jazz-like improvisation that will flow through you from the grace and love of God.
“I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict,” Jesus assures us.
So, pick up your trumpet and blow. The new notes will come, and there is no telling who the Holy Spirit will bring by your side to provide harmony.
When that happens, the walls—from Jericho to whatever dark moment surrounds you—will surely come tumbling down, revealing the way out, a path through life’s rubble and debris.
And what about the rivers?
Their clapping hands will be your joyous hill-ringing percussion.



Saint Each Of Us

By Ken Woodley

Great. Wonderful. Just right. But look around you and see for yourselves.

We’ve all got our costumes on. We’re wearing our All Saints Day outfits. Yes, you and you and you. And even me.

And the really strange thing is that they’re not really costumes at all. We’re wearing the stuff we wear every day of the week.

That’s the point. As hard as it is to believe.

Me? A saint?

Not hardly. Couldn’t be. I know myself too well to stake any claim to sainthood. But the rest of you? Absolutely. 

I know. Each of you is shaking your head, as well. You have the same doubts as me. You don’t believe for a moment that you’re a saint. You know yourself too well to stake any claim to sainthood.

But, that’s really the point. Saints aren’t perfect. The actual canonized, hall-of-fame, stained-glass-window saints weren’t perfect at all.

Look at Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for crying out loud. They were as flawed as anybody. You and I can’t walk on water. But neither could Peter, even with Jesus there reaching out to him.

And, gosh, how about Paul? 

During the time he went around calling himself Saul, he was an accomplice to many acts of violence, and at least one death—he was there holding the cloaks of those who stoned Saint Stephen.

None of us has done anything like that. Still, we doubt our saintliness. So, consider this:

Jesus has called each one of us the light of the world.

To me, being thought of by Jesus as the light of the world is more amazing than being a saint. But it’s true. Jesus said so. We’ve all been lit up by Jesus in our lives. We’ve all been kindled by God to shine evidence of heavenly love and grace in the world.

If we’re good enough for Jesus, and good enough for God, that should be good enough for anyone. Good enough, even, for ourselves to realize how loved by God and Christ we really are.

Loved as individuals and collectively as a human family.

And how brightly that love shines through us out into the world, filling corners of darkness with light. Because that’s what saints do and, trust me, none of the saints ever thought of themselves as saints. Only we think of them that way. But saints, in spite of their human foibles, give people a glimpse of God’s presence in the world. 

Or maybe, just perhaps, it’s actually through their—through our—fractured places that God is most able to shine into us, and out through us into the world.



By Ken Woodley
Great. Wonderful. Just right. But look around you and see for yourselves.
We’ve all got our costumes on. We’re wearing our All Saints Day outfits. Yes, you and you and you. And even me.
And the really strange thing is that they’re not really costumes at all. We’re wearing the stuff we wear every day of the week.
That’s the point. As hard as it is to believe.
Me? A saint?
Not hardly. Couldn’t be. I know myself too well to stake any claim to sainthood. But the rest of you? Absolutely.
I know. Each of you is shaking your head, as well. You have the same doubts as me. You don’t believe for a moment that you’re a saint. You know yourself too well to stake any claim to sainthood.
But, that’s really the point. Saints aren’t perfect. The actual canonized, hall-of-fame, stained-glass-window saints weren’t perfect at all.
Look at Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for crying out loud. They were as flawed as anybody. You and I can’t walk on water. But neither could Peter, even with Jesus there reaching out to him.
And, gosh, how about Paul?
During the time he went around calling himself Saul, he was an accomplice to many acts of violence, and at least one death—he was there holding the cloaks of those who stoned Saint Stephen.
None of us has done anything like that. Still, we doubt our saintliness. So, consider this:
Jesus has called each one of us the light of the world.
To me, being thought of by Jesus as the light of the world is more amazing than being a saint. But it’s true. Jesus said so. We’ve all been lit up by Jesus in our lives. We’ve all been kindled by God to shine evidence of heavenly love and grace in the world.
If we’re good enough for Jesus, and good enough for God, that should be good enough for anyone. Good enough, even, for ourselves to realize how loved by God and Christ we really are.
Loved as individuals and collectively as a human family.
And how brightly that love shines through us out into the world, filling corners of darkness with light. Because that’s what saints do and, trust me, none of the saints ever thought of themselves as saints. Only we think of them that way. But saints, in spite of their human foibles, give people a glimpse of God’s presence in the world.
Or maybe, just perhaps, it’s actually through their—through our—fractured places that God is most able to shine into us, and out through us into the world.






A Deeper Vision

“Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

One can read a piece of scripture many times and feel complete familiarity with the words and their message. Then read it one more time and find a new kernel of revelatory truth. That happened to me with this passage from Mark.
What hit me right between the eyes—this time—was that, rather than go to the blind man, Jesus instructed that the beggar Bartimaeus be told to come to him, instead.
I thought that was just a bit insensitive. It would have been much easier for Jesus to go to the blind man. But Bartimaeus had no difficulty at all. “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus,” the Gospel of Mark tells us. No problem. And that is a crucial point.
Despite the potentially confusing presence of the disciples and the “large crowd” leaving Jericho, a man who cannot see was able find and stand face to face with Jesus, not having to hunt and search by trial and error, person to person. Surrounded by the darkness of being blind, the man was able to zero in on the light of Christ.
It was as if he had a homing signal. As if his soul had radar and sonar capabilities that led him unerringly to Jesus.
Jesus, of course, heals the man, telling him that his faith has made him well. But the events leading up to that healing are relevant to everyone. As is the healing, itself.
We all suffer from some form of at least momentary “blindness.” There are events and circumstances (both past and present), fears and anxieties, any and all of life’s challenges that can make us feel that we are surrounded by darkness, suddenly blind to the light of Christ and his message of God’s love and grace.
When that happens—and at some point in our lives it happens to us all, at least once—it is best to follow the example of Bartimaeus and shout with our soul for Jesus to come and heal our blindness.
And continue shouting with stubborn persistence, no matter how much the darkness that has blinded us tries to keep us silent, as those around Bartimaeus had attempted to silence him. Because: when our yearning soul persists in crying out for Jesus, we will be found by Christ.
Our eyes will be opened to his light.
And in that light we will understand that Jesus never went anywhere. He never left us behind, outside the walls of our own Jerichos. In our blindness, we couldn’t see that he was right there beside us all the time.
In our moments of blindness, it is our faith that truly is a homing signal for our soul, radar and sonar that will unerringly lead us to the truth of the ceaseless presence of Holy love in our lives.
But there is something else we need to remember:
We mustn’t forget to throw off our cloaks, just as Bartimaeus did. That cloak had become a cocoon of imprisonment. That cloak was the “skin” of Bartimaeus’ former, blind existence.
Throwing it off, as he sprang up and came to Jesus, he became like a butterfly pulling free of its chrysalis.
Spreading the wings of his new life of sight.
So, too, can we realize that vision.
Because the deepest “sight” we possess has nothing at all to do with our eyes.

“Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

One can read a piece of scripture many times and feel complete familiarity with the words and their message. Then read it one more time and find a new kernel of revelatory truth. That happened to me with this passage from Mark.
What hit me right between the eyes—this time—was that, rather than go to the blind man, Jesus instructed that the beggar Bartimaeus be told to come to him, instead.
I thought that was just a bit insensitive. It would have been much easier for Jesus to go to the blind man. But Bartimaeus had no difficulty at all. “So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus,” the Gospel of Mark tells us. No problem. And that is a crucial point.
Despite the potentially confusing presence of the disciples and the “large crowd” leaving Jericho, a man who cannot see was able find and stand face to face with Jesus, not having to hunt and search by trial and error, person to person. Surrounded by the darkness of being blind, the man was able to zero in on the light of Christ.
It was as if he had a homing signal. As if his soul had radar and sonar capabilities that led him unerringly to Jesus.
Jesus, of course, heals the man, telling him that his faith has made him well. But the events leading up to that healing are relevant to everyone. As is the healing, itself.
We all suffer from some form of at least momentary “blindness.” There are events and circumstances (both past and present), fears and anxieties, any and all of life’s challenges that can make us feel that we are surrounded by darkness, suddenly blind to the light of Christ and his message of God’s love and grace.
When that happens—and at some point in our lives it happens to us all, at least once—it is best to follow the example of Bartimaeus and shout with our soul for Jesus to come and heal our blindness.
And continue shouting with stubborn persistence, no matter how much the darkness that has blinded us tries to keep us silent, as those around Bartimaeus had attempted to silence him. Because: when our yearning soul persists in crying out for Jesus, we will be found by Christ.
Our eyes will be opened to his light.
And in that light we will understand that Jesus never went anywhere. He never left us behind, outside the walls of our own Jerichos. In our blindness, we couldn’t see that he was right there beside us all the time.
In our moments of blindness, it is our faith that truly is a homing signal for our soul, radar and sonar that will unerringly lead us to the truth of the ceaseless presence of Holy love in our lives.
But there is something else we need to remember:
We mustn’t forget to throw off our cloaks, just as Bartimaeus did. That cloak had become a cocoon of imprisonment. That cloak was the “skin” of Bartimaeus’ former, blind existence.
Throwing it off, as he sprang up and came to Jesus, he became like a butterfly pulling free of its chrysalis.
Spreading the wings of his new life of sight.
So, too, can we realize that vision.
Because the deepest “sight” we possess has nothing at all to do with our eyes.

























Jesus Isn’t Santa Claus

“‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus.
I believed in God.
And I believed in Jesus.
I was told by adults that all three of them are real, and I unequivocally believed what I was told.
There was no doubt in my mind, or in my heart, of their existence.
When I was a child, all three of them were as real as real can be.
For years, I believed that all three of them genuinely existed. I clung to that faith long after many of my friends had peeled away the veneer and discovered the fiction behind it all.
Eventually, I grew up, and also accepted the truth that I’d been trying to avoid.
I learned that Santa Claus lives in our hearts.
But that is all. That is the only place where Santa Claus resides. The North Pole is a frozen wasteland. None of the animals there have red noses. Only the wind-chilled scientists and explorers have red noses, and none of them guide Santa’s sleigh.
As an adult, I have also grown to understand that God, too, lives within our hearts. Or can reside there.
As does Jesus. If we let him.
But—and this is a gloriously hallelujah ‘but’—that is not all.
That is not the only place.
God is real.
Jesus is real.
Both of them genuinely exist whether I let them live in my heart or not.
I simply know that to be true.
I believe it to be true.
Nor do I feel compelled to prove it to anyone in order to reinforce my own faith. But there is still plenty of evidence.
The existence of God and the risen Jesus are demonstrably proved by the post-crucifixion turnaround in the disciples, from cowering cowards to bold preachers who feared nothing for their physical safety.
Only a genuine encounter with the resurrected Jesus can account for that. And Jesus can only exist as our resurrected savior if God exists. Therefore, the fact of Christ confirms the fact of God, and a loving God, at that.
Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, transforming him from a murderer of Christians—an accessory before, during and after the fact—to an obsessed disciple of Christ, is another stunning piece of forensic evidence.
Nor are those two examples the only New Testament “exhibits” one could place before any jury that doubts the existence of God and Christ.
But I have also had enough “thin moments” and “close encounters” with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus (therefore with God, as well) to personally cement my faith.
And I accept those “thin moments” as genuine encounters, as a child would accept Santa Claus, sitting on his lap at the mall. I do not look cynically for any other “explanation” that might seem more rational to an adult mind.
One moment, on July 2, 1980, was so intimate—beyond “thin”—that it felt like nothing at all was separating me from the love of God, the Love that is God, of which Jesus spoke.
I was driving home from a Buckingham County School Board meeting—wrestling with a profound years-old wound—and had to pull off to the side of the road, sobbing with joy. That Loving Presence embraced me for hours.
Such a moment hasn’t happened again but it has been enough to sustain me with the truth about God’s Love. And that helps me to keep rising above that wound.
I know that I can pull on the beard of Christ as hard as I want but it isn’t coming off. He’s no seasonal, moonlighting phony.
The kingdom of Heaven is real.
Waiting for us to enter.
And so transform the world through our own individual, intimate and ongoing transformation.

“‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus.
I believed in God.
And I believed in Jesus.
I was told by adults that all three of them are real, and I unequivocally believed what I was told.
There was no doubt in my mind, or in my heart, of their existence.
When I was a child, all three of them were as real as real can be.
For years, I believed that all three of them genuinely existed. I clung to that faith long after many of my friends had peeled away the veneer and discovered the fiction behind it all.
Eventually, I grew up, and also accepted the truth that I’d been trying to avoid.
I learned that Santa Claus lives in our hearts.
But that is all. That is the only place where Santa Claus resides. The North Pole is a frozen wasteland. None of the animals there have red noses. Only the wind-chilled scientists and explorers have red noses, and none of them guide Santa’s sleigh.
As an adult, I have also grown to understand that God, too, lives within our hearts. Or can reside there.
As does Jesus. If we let him.
But—and this is a gloriously hallelujah ‘but’—that is not all.
That is not the only place.
God is real.
Jesus is real.
Both of them genuinely exist whether I let them live in my heart or not.
I simply know that to be true.
I believe it to be true.
Nor do I feel compelled to prove it to anyone in order to reinforce my own faith. But there is still plenty of evidence.
The existence of God and the risen Jesus are demonstrably proved by the post-crucifixion turnaround in the disciples, from cowering cowards to bold preachers who feared nothing for their physical safety.
Only a genuine encounter with the resurrected Jesus can account for that. And Jesus can only exist as our resurrected savior if God exists. Therefore, the fact of Christ confirms the fact of God, and a loving God, at that.
Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, transforming him from a murderer of Christians—an accessory before, during and after the fact—to an obsessed disciple of Christ, is another stunning piece of forensic evidence.
Nor are those two examples the only New Testament “exhibits” one could place before any jury that doubts the existence of God and Christ.
But I have also had enough “thin moments” and “close encounters” with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus (therefore with God, as well) to personally cement my faith.
And I accept those “thin moments” as genuine encounters, as a child would accept Santa Claus, sitting on his lap at the mall. I do not look cynically for any other “explanation” that might seem more rational to an adult mind.
One moment, on July 2, 1980, was so intimate—beyond “thin”—that it felt like nothing at all was separating me from the love of God, the Love that is God, of which Jesus spoke.
I was driving home from a Buckingham County School Board meeting—wrestling with a profound years-old wound—and had to pull off to the side of road, sobbing with joy. That Loving Presence embraced me for hours.
Such a moment hasn’t happened again but it has been enough to sustain me with the truth about God’s Love. And that helps me to keep rising above that wound.
I know that I can pull on the beard of Christ as hard as I want but it isn’t coming off. He’s no seasonal, moonlighting phony.
The kingdom of Heaven is real.
Waiting for us enter.
And so transform the world through our own individual, intimate and ongoing transformation.





Seeing The Light Before We Open Our Eyes

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray … The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up … The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective…”

—The Epistle of James

By Ken Woodley

Life can sometimes make us feel as if we’ve suddenly been caught in an avalanche or a collapsed mineshaft.
We’re buried miles away from our former happiness.
Our former understanding of the world.
Perhaps even our faith, as we remember it.
We’re nearly suffocating in the darkness and the doubts.
Unable to reach the light of day.
Despair and a sense of helplessness toss dice to see which one wins us for its own.
But we are not helpless and should not despair for longer than it takes to find the gleam of truth in our souls.
Nor are we abandoned and alone.
Prayer is the tool we can use to dig our way out.
Every prayer.
Each day.
All of our spoken and silent words of prayer can tunnel through the layers of darkness that cover us just as if we’d literally been trapped in an avalanche or a mineshaft that had given way.
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
And we penetrate a little further toward the light.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
And we dig ourselves a bit closer to the fresh air that we were breathing only yesterday.
“I will fear no evil…”
And now the Holy Spirit can feel us praying.
“Because you are with me…”
God knows where we are and what has happened, and why would we ever think that God doesn’t pray? And Jesus too.
Digging down toward our words of faith.
So we must keep praying so they can reach us.
Praying and believing that they will.
It is too easy for some people to dismiss prayer as merely a ritual. And, truthfully, mindlessly repeating the same words over and over every day does rob them of their power.
True prayer can be far more than that. And it can be all of one single word. Faithfully repeating “Jesus” can both calm my inner storm and connect me with the Holy Spirit. Pick a word or phrase of your own and use it to hammer upward toward the light.
The words in the Epistle are powerful reminders of the true power of real prayer—the prayer, as James tells us, “of faith.”
James is speaking to us as a compelling firsthand witness of what the early church experienced through faith-filled prayer after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There is no avalanche too heavy.
James knew this.
And no mine shaft too deep.
Do we understand everything about prayer and how it works? No, not at all. I suspect we never shall.
But that is what makes the prayer of faith so powerful. It is all about faith, rather than possessing the blueprints about how everything works.
Faith that taps into the deepest recesses of our soul and connects us to the power of God’s love and grace.
When that happens, the light finds us before we even see it with our eyes.

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray … The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up … The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective…”

—The Epistle of James

By Ken Woodley

Life can sometimes make us feel as if we’ve suddenly been caught in an avalanche or a collapsed mineshaft.
We’re buried miles away from our former happiness.
Our former understanding of the world.
Perhaps even our faith, as remember it.
We’re nearly suffocating in the darkness and the doubts.
Unable to reach the light of day.
Despair and a sense of helplessness toss dice to see which one wins us for its own.
But we are not helpless and should not despair for longer than it takes to find the gleam of truth in our souls.
Nor are we abandoned and alone.
Prayer is the tool we can use to dig our way out.
Every prayer.
Each day.
All of our spoken and silent words of prayer can tunnel through the layers of darkness that cover us just as if we’d literally been trapped in an avalanche or a mineshaft that had given way.
“The Lord is my shepherd…”
And we penetrate a little further toward the light.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
And we dig ourselves a bit closer to the fresh air that we were breathing only yesterday.
“I will fear no evil…”
And now the Holy Spirit can feel us praying.
“Because you are with me…”
God knows where we are and what has happened, and why would we ever think that God doesn’t pray? And Jesus too.
Digging down toward our words of faith.
So we must keep praying so they can reach us.
Praying and believing that they will.
It is too easy for some people to dismiss prayer as merely a ritual. And, truthfully, mindlessly repeating the same words over and over every day does rob them of their power.
True prayer can be far more than that. And it can be all of one single word. Faithfully repeating “Jesus” can both calm my inner storm and connect me with the Holy Spirit. Pick a word or phrase of your own and use it to hammer upward toward the light.
The words in the Epistle are powerful reminders of the true power of real prayer—the prayer, as James tells us, “of faith.”
James is speaking to us as a compelling firsthand witness of what the early church experienced through faith-filled prayer after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There is no avalanche too heavy.
James knew this.
And no mineshaft too deep.
Do we understand everything about prayer and how it works? No, not at all. I suspect we never shall.
But that is what makes the prayer of faith so powerful. It is all about faith, rather than possessing the blueprints about how everything works.
Faith that taps into the deepest recesses of our soul and connects us to the power of God’s love and grace.
When that happens, the light finds us before we even see it with our eyes.












The 24-7 Diner

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:8

By Ken Woodley

Come and get it.
Dig in.
Breakfast’s ready. Lunch and dinner, too.
This kitchen serves it up 24-7.
Open all day. Open all night.
Never a second when the door is closed and none of the doors have locks.
And there’s a place around the table for everyone.
Yes, come and taste and see that Lord is good.
In fact, the Lord is something quite special.
Delicious and sustaining.
A meal unto itself.
“Taste the Lord.”
What an extraordinary invitation the psalmist extends to us.
We aren’t invited to read something and think about it.
We aren’t asked to lock ourselves away in deep meditation in hopes a revelation will come to us.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “taste” are telling:
“To ascertain the flavor.”
“To perceive or recognize.”
“To become acquainted with by experience.”
“Appreciate, enjoy.”
And all of these definitions directly apply to the invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Ascertain the flavor of Love.
Perceive Love.
Recognize Love.
Become acquainted with Love by experiencing it.
Appreciate Love.
Enjoy Love.
I mean, really, what more could we possibly want?
After all, this love is all we need.
And for that we can thank Jesus and the door he opened to the Trinity of Love and our relationship with it.
The concept of the Trinity can be difficult to wrap our heads around. Let’s leave our heads out of it and use the taste buds of our soul, instead.
Think of the Trinity as the most incredible meal in the history of the world. The Holy Spirit is the wondrous scent that whets our appetites. We can’t see it or taste it, but we know it’s there, invisible but palpable. Jesus is this Love made manifest among us. The sight of this Love. The voice of it. The touch and feel of it. And it is Jesus who leads our souls to a direct place at the table with this Love:
“I in them and you and me, may they be perfectly one,” he prays to Love in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John.
A prayer that was answered.
God’s Love is already deep inside our soul. Taste this miraculous truth.
Swallow it. And inwardly digest the feast.
It’s all-you-can-eat and…
“…All that you can share.”
And these aren’t crumbs off the table.
None of us are dogs.
We are all children of God.
Each of us loved just as we are.
Unconditionally.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:8

By Ken Woodley

Come and get it.
Dig in.
Breakfast’s ready. Lunch and dinner, too.
This kitchen serves it up 24-7.
Open all day. Open all night.
Never a second when the door is closed and none of the doors have locks.
And there’s a place around the table for everyone.
Yes, come and taste and see that Lord is good.
In fact, the Lord is something quite special.
Delicious and sustaining.
A meal unto itself.
“Taste the Lord.”
What an extraordinary invitation the psalmist extends to us.
We aren’t invited to read something and think about it.
We aren’t asked to lock ourselves away in deep meditation in hopes a revelation will come to us.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “taste” are telling:
“To ascertain the flavor.”
“To perceive or recognize.”
“To become acquainted with by experience.”
“Appreciate, enjoy.”
And all of these definitions directly apply to the invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Ascertain the flavor of Love.
Perceive Love.
Recognize Love.
Become acquainted with Love by experiencing it.
Appreciate Love.
Enjoy Love.
I mean, really, what more could we possibly want?
After all, this love is all we need.
And for that we can thank Jesus and the door he opened to the Trinity of Love and our relationship with it.
The concept of the Trinity can be difficult to wrap our heads around. Let’s leave our heads out of it and use the taste buds of our soul, instead.
Think of the Trinity as the most incredible meal in the history of the world. The Holy Spirit is the wondrous scent that whets our appetites. We can’t see it or taste it, but we know it’s there, invisible but palpable. Jesus is this Love made manifest among us. The sight of this Love. The voice of it. The touch and feel of it. And it is Jesus who leads our souls to a direct place at the table with this Love:
“I in them and you and me, may they be perfectly one,” he prays to Love in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John.
A prayer that was answered.
God’s Love is already deep inside our soul. Taste this miraculous truth.
Swallow it. And inwardly digest the feast.
It’s all-you-can-eat and…
“…All that you can share.”
And these aren’t crumbs off the table.
None of us are dogs.
We are all children of God.
Each of us loved just as we are.
Unconditionally.



Unsung Hero

Gleaning In The Fields Of Light

Unsung Hero

“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about 5,000 in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

—The Gospel of John

By Ken Woodley

The hero of this parable isn’t Andrew. And, despite this legendary miracle, the hero isn’t Jesus, either.
The heroic figure in this story is the anonymous boy.
But perhaps we know more about him than we think.
We know that he came to see Jesus, and apparently alone because there is no mention of any parent or adult with him. So he is brave, questing and probably very spiritual. Perhaps not unlike Jesus was as a youth.
And he brought five barley loaves and two fish. Nobody else in the crowd had any food readily visible. Why did the boy have the loaves and fishes? If he had traveled far, the bread and fish might have been all the food he had to survive the journey. Or, if he’d come only a short distance, the boy might have arrived prepared to share his food with others. For that is what he certainly did.
Either way, he is also of a giving, compassionate nature. Perhaps not unlike Jesus was as a boy. And that makes me wonder.
I especially wonder what Jesus said to the boy as Andrew and the other disciples were telling 5,000 people to sit down. Jesus didn’t just walk up and take the five barley loaves and two fish from the youngster. Of course not. He would have spoken to the boy about the hunger of the people all around him, and the wondrous possibilities if the boy gave him the loaves and fishes.
Or, equally possible, Jesus might not have had to say a word. The boy’s heart was clearly opened to any possibility because he had come to see Jesus. So perhaps he simply stepped forward and offered all he had.
Jesus once said that unless one becomes like a little child it will be impossible for them to enter the kingdom of heaven. This parable shows us what he meant by that.
The boy didn’t make a fuss about giving Jesus all of the food he’d brought with him. There was no argument. Their conversation attracted nobody’s attention because there is nothing written about it. All the words were spoken quietly between Jesus and the boy.
Nor did the boy question Jesus’ ability to feed so many people with so little food. No, Andrew, the adult, had done that. The boy simply gave Jesus the five loaves and two fish, fully expecting Jesus to feed everyone there.
The boy clearly had the strong faith of innocence, the kind of faith that could walk on water. I wonder if Jesus saw himself in the boy, recognized a kindred spirit. I suspect that he did.
No, there would have been no famous miracle without this unknown boy who knew the kingdom of heaven when he saw it. And, standing there with Jesus, that child made the kingdom of heaven manifest to the 5,000. And to us.
I wonder where in the world that boy is today.
Here’s a thought:
You’ve got a barley loaf. I have a fish. Let’s go in search of him.
After all, he may be waiting somewhere for us with Jesus.
And if we do undertake this journey and do somehow find him, we will also find ourselves.

“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about 5,000 in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

—The Gospel of John

By Ken Woodley

The hero of this parable isn’t Andrew. And, despite this legendary miracle, the hero isn’t Jesus, either.
The heroic figure in this story is the anonymous boy.
But perhaps we know more about him than we think.
We know that he came to see Jesus, and apparently alone because there is no mention of any parent or adult with him. So he is brave, questing and probably very spiritual. Perhaps not unlike Jesus was as a youth.
And he brought five barley loaves and two fish. Nobody else in the crowd had any food readily visible. Why did the boy have the loaves and fishes? If he had traveled far, the bread and fish might have been all the food he had to survive the journey. Or, if he’d come only a short distance, the boy might have arrived prepared to share his food with others. For that is what he certainly did.
Either way, he is also of a giving, compassionate nature. Perhaps not unlike Jesus was as a boy. And that makes me wonder.
I especially wonder what Jesus said to the boy as Andrew and the other disciples were telling 5,000 people to sit down. Jesus didn’t just walk up and take the five barley loaves and two fish from the youngster. Of course not. He would have spoken to the boy about the hunger of the people all around him, and the wondrous possibilities if the boy gave him the loaves and fishes.
Or, equally possible, Jesus might not have had to say a word. The boy’s heart was clearly opened to any possibility because he had come to see Jesus. So perhaps he simply stepped forward and offered all he had.
Jesus once said that unless one becomes like a little child it will be impossible for them to enter the kingdom of heaven. This parable shows us what he meant by that.
The boy didn’t make a fuss about giving Jesus all of the food he’d brought with him. There was no argument. Their conversation attracted nobody’s attention because there is nothing written about it. All the words were spoken quietly between Jesus and the boy.
Nor did the boy question Jesus’ ability to feed so many people with so little food. No, Andrew, the adult, had done that. The boy simply gave Jesus the five loaves and two fish, fully expecting Jesus to feed everyone there.
The boy clearly had the strong faith of innocence, the kind of faith that could walk on water. I wonder if Jesus saw himself in the boy, recognized a kindred spirit. I suspect that he did.
No, there would have been no famous miracle without this unknown boy who knew the kingdom of heaven when he saw it. And, standing there with Jesus, that child made the kingdom of heaven manifest to the 5,000. And to us.
I wonder where in the world that boy is today.
Here’s a thought:
You’ve got a barley loaf. I have a fish. Let’s go in search of him.
After all, he may be waiting somewhere for us with Jesus.
And if we do undertake this journey and do somehow find him, we will also find ourselves.




















Leaving IT All Behind

Gleaning In The Fields Of Light

Leaving IT All Behind

“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in a boat to a deserted place by themselves.”

—the Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

The apostles’ energy reserves were drained to the dregs. 

And even the dregs had nothing left to give.

They’d walked everywhere telling as many people as they could about the Kingdom of Heaven. They had blisters on their feet and aches and pains all over.

Jesus heard the fatigue in their voices.

Saw the lines of weariness on their faces.

Discerned the stoop of shoulders.

Jesus had been there and felt all of that.

He understood the danger of burning up all of one’s physical, spiritual and emotional fuel without pausing to re-fill the tank. 

Such self-neglect could have dire consequences to them personally and to their mission.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus regularly went off “to a lonely place” by himself, re-charging his batteries through prayer, contemplation and just plain rest.

He knew the prescription the Apostles needed to have filled for their rejuvenation: Go off to that lonely place and rest.

Jesus’ advice is timelessly wise. But going off to a lonely place can be nearly impossible because most of us carry the crowded world and all of its incessant distractions everywhere with us:

Smart phones. The digital umbilical cord connecting us to static chatter and hubbub.

Can’t live with them.

Can’t live without them.

When the Apostles went off to that quiet hillside by the sea for their spiritual retreat, they did not take the compulsive demands of social media with them. They never faced that temptation.

Texts and emails did not call upon their time. The only tweets came from the birds singing among the trees at dawn. There were no incoming Instagram messages to respond to. If you’d said “Facebook” to them, they would have wondered what in the world you were talking about.

Yes, the apostles could have found effective ways to incorporate social media into their mission, spreading The Gospel by streaming Jesus live, putting the Sermon on the Mount on YouTube.

Just as all of us are fortunate to have social media as a useful tool to expand our ability to communicate and connect. As you and I are doing now. But we need to manage our social media rather than be managed by it.

Today, Jesus would have this additional piece of advice for his Apostles: “Oh, yes, and before you go off to that lonely place to rest, leave your smart phones with me. And your iPads. Laptops, too. Otherwise, you will never find a lonely place. Every hillside, shaded glen and mountaintop will be filled to overflowing with the world and its distractions.”

We’d be wise to listen to him. Our lonely place might be a quiet room in the house, the shade of a tree in the back yard, the sanctuary of our church on a Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon, or some favorite trail at a local state park.

When we go to those lonely places to re-charge, let’s turn the technological world off and leave it behind. Without the its siren song, we can better hear the small, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit in our soul.

And therefore bring it back with us into the world when our rest is done, ready for where the Holy Spirit next guides our footsteps.

By Ken Woodley

“The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in a boat to a deserted place by themselves.”

—the Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley
The apostles’ energy reserves were drained to the dregs.
And even the dregs had nothing left to give.
They’d walked everywhere telling as many people as they could about the Kingdom of Heaven. They had blisters on their feet and aches and pains all over.
Jesus heard the fatigue in their voices.
Saw the lines of weariness on their faces.
Discerned the stoop of shoulders.
Jesus had been there and felt all of that.
He understood the danger of burning up all of one’s physical, spiritual and emotional fuel without pausing to re-fill the tank.
Such self-neglect could have dire consequences to them personally and to their mission.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus regularly went off “to a lonely place” by himself, re-charging his batteries through prayer, contemplation and just plain rest.
He knew the prescription the Apostles needed to have filled for their rejuvenation: Go off to that lonely place and rest.
Jesus’ advice is timelessly wise. But going off to a lonely place can be nearly impossible because most of us carry the crowded world and all of its incessant distractions everywhere with us:
Smart phones. The digital umbilical cord connecting us to static chatter and hubbub.
Can’t live with them.
Can’t live without them.
When the Apostles went off to that quiet hillside by the sea for their spiritual retreat, they did not take the compulsive demands of social media with them. They never faced that temptation.
Texts and emails did not call upon their time. The only tweets came from the birds singing among the trees at dawn. There were no incoming Instagram messages to respond to. If you’d said “Facebook” to them, they would have wondered what in the world you were talking about.
Yes, the apostles could have found effective ways to incorporate social media into their mission, spreading The Gospel by streaming Jesus live, putting the Sermon on the Mount on YouTube.
Just as all of us are fortunate to have social media as a useful tool to expand our ability to communicate and connect. As you and I are doing now. But we need to manage our social media rather than be managed by it.
Today, Jesus would have this additional piece of advice for his Apostles: “Oh, yes, and before you go off to that lonely place to rest, leave your smart phones with me. And your iPads. Laptops, too. Otherwise, you will never find a lonely place. Every hillside, shaded glen and mountaintop will be filled to overflowing with the world and its distractions.”
We’d be wise to listen to him. Our lonely place might be a quiet room in the house, the shade of a tree in the back yard, the sanctuary of our church on a Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon, or some favorite trail at a local state park.
When we go to those lonely places to re-charge, let’s turn the technological world off and leave it behind. Without the its siren song, we can better hear the small, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit in our soul.
And therefore bring it back with us into the world when our rest is done, ready for where the Holy Spirit next guides our footsteps.