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Deaf To The World, But Hearing God

“They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, and his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

There are times—too many, I’m afraid—when I am just like the deaf man in this story. I cannot hear the voice of God telling me that I am loved. 

Honestly, I think many, if not all of us, experience this deafness from time to time in our lives.

The world has deafened us to the small, quiet voice within us. We can no longer hear it. Our head and heart and our soul are filled with the world’s shouting about anything and everything but God’s love. And we don’t even know it.

We believe that we are still listening to God’s voice of love. We haven’t stopped praying. We haven’t stopped reading scripture. We haven’t stopped our meditation and contemplation. We’re still going to church. We believe we’re just as tuned in to God’s frequency as ever.

But we are not.

The world has become too loud. Sometimes, I think, I mistake something that the world is saying as being the words of God.

But God doesn’t talk to me like that. God never says those sorts of things about me. Words that may make me feel good about myself but don’t bring me peace. Words that might feed my ego and my need for affirmation but are the equivalent of drinking Diet Love or Love-Lite.

I should know better.

There is a distinct difference between the way God assures me that I am beloved and the way the world says, ‘I love you’ one minute then withholds affection in the very next heartbeat, telling me that I am not good enough.

When I am deafened to God’s voice of love, something else happens, too. Just like the deaf man in the Gospel of Mark, I develop an impediment in my speech. 

My voice begins to sound more like it has been taught to speak by the world. I am too prone to mimic the world, rather than articulate the true speech of love that God tries so desperately to teach us by assuring us we are loved. That all of us are.

Truly loved by true love. A love that never demeans or seeks to diminish or lure down false pathways. That never says, ‘I love you’ one minute and then throws you into the recycling bin.

When I recognize the sound of the world speaking in my own voice, I understand that it has happened again—I have become deaf to God’s voice of love. I have closed myself off to that voice of love and begun listening only to the world, and without even realizing it. 

And so I cry out to that love and for that love as the world seems to gather its breath so that it can blow all of that love away. Even the tree limbs begin to sway in the gathering breeze.

It is then that I can suddenly discern that I am no longer hearing the wind in the leaves but, instead, the sound of Jesus beside me. And then he leads me away from the gathering storm.

“Be opened,” he tells me, when we are alone. “Be opened and receive God’s love. Be opened and speak plainly of God’s love. Do not let the world close you up and away from me.”

And so I am here. With you. Speaking of love as plainly as I can. And listening. Listening with all of my heart.

“They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, and his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

There are times—too many, I’m afraid—when I am just like the deaf man in this story. I cannot hear the voice of God telling me that I am loved.
Honestly, I think many, if not all of us, experience this deafness from time to time in our lives.
The world has deafened us to the small, quiet voice within us. We can no longer hear it. Our head and heart and our soul are filled with the world’s shouting about anything and everything but God’s love. And we don’t even know it.
We believe that we are still listening to God’s voice of love. We haven’t stopped praying. We haven’t stopped reading scripture. We haven’t stopped our meditation and contemplation. We’re still going to church. We believe we’re just as tuned in to God’s frequency as ever.
But we are not.
The world has become too loud. Sometimes, I think, I mistake something that the world is saying as being the words of God.
But God doesn’t talk to me like that. God never says those sorts of things about me. Words that may make me feel good about myself but don’t bring me peace. Words that might feed my ego and my need for affirmation but are the equivalent of drinking Diet Love or Love-Lite.
I should know better.
There is a distinct difference between the way God assures me that I am beloved and the way the world says, ‘I love you’ one minute then withholds affection in the very next heartbeat, telling me that I am not good enough.
When I am deafened to God’s voice of love, something else happens, too. Just like the deaf man in the Gospel of Mark, I develop an impediment in my speech.
My voice begins to sound more like it has been taught to speak by the world. I am too prone to mimic the world, rather than articulate the true speech of love that God tries so desperately to teach us by assuring us we are loved. That all of us are.
Truly loved by true love. A love that never demeans or seeks to diminish or lure down false pathways. That never says, ‘I love you’ one minute and then throws you into the recycling bin.
When I recognize the sound of the world speaking in my own voice, I understand that it has happened again—I have become deaf to God’s voice of love. I have closed myself off to that voice of love and begun listening only to the world, and without even realizing it.
And so I cry out to that love and for that love as the world seems to gather its breath so that it can blow all of that love away. Even the tree limbs begin to sway in the gathering breeze.
It is then that I can suddenly discern that I am no longer hearing the wind in the leaves but, instead, the sound of Jesus beside me. And then he leads me away from the gathering storm.
“Be opened,” he tells me, when we are alone. “Be opened and receive God’s love. Be opened and speak plainly of God’s love. Do not let the world close you up and away from me.”
And so I am here. With you. Speaking of love as plainly as I can. And listening. Listening with all of my heart.
























Wings

By Ken Woodley

From the farthest branch 

of the highest limb

of the tallest autumn-leaning tree

a yellow leaf begins to end,

weighed down by

all of the gravity around it,

descending toward earth,

its ascendant seasons done and gone,

all grip on life fluttering in the breeze,

the joy of sipping sunshine communion from the sky

lost forever.

Spring has died.

Summer is following in its wake.

The fall of the yellow leaf has come

and winter waits with its epitaph.

The halcyon existence of all that the once-green leaf

has ever known

is terminally ticking away

and I find my heart and soul

reaching out toward its helpless

hopelessness,

twisting in spiraling flutters with it

downward,

except for the brief breath of breezes

that lift us into a resurrection mirage

before every grain of time’s trickling sand

runs out into this desert feeling we share.

This yellow leaf and I know each other,

instinctively,

so many of my own seasons

fallen behind me, too,

with only memories of blooms left for me to wander in

among the maze-like gardens

where I become lost

in the scattering recollections

of things that were 

and might have been,

and never should have.

All of my tomorrows 

seemed locked in one day

that might have been yesterday,

the sky becoming more and more a distant voice,

barely articulate to me now

as the tangled earth awaits,

an embrace of intemperate mourning

among all that has fallen before us,

the yellow leaf and I holding on to each other

for dear life,

trying to remember the words of a prayer

that miraculously spreads its wings 

just before we hit the ground.

The yellow butterfly and I rise,

fragile but forever,

into newness of life,

season-less and un-calendared,

toward everything that exists

on the other side of the distant mountains

within us.

By Ken Woodley

From the farthest branch
of the highest limb
of the tallest autumn-leaning tree
a yellow leaf begins to end,
weighed down by
all of the gravity around it,
descending toward earth,
its ascendant seasons done and gone,
all grip on life fluttering in the breeze,
the joy of sipping sunshine communion from the sky
lost forever.

Spring has died.
Summer is following in its wake.
The fall of the yellow leaf has come
and winter waits with its epitaph.

The halcyon existence of all that the once-green leaf
has ever known
is terminally ticking away
and I find my heart and soul
reaching out toward its helpless
hopelessness,
twisting in spiraling flutters with it
downward,
except for the brief breath of breezes
that lift us into a resurrection mirage
before every grain of time’s trickling sand
runs out into this desert feeling we share.

This yellow leaf and I know each other,
instinctively,
so many of my own seasons
fallen behind me, too,
with only memories of blooms left for me to wander in
among the maze-like gardens
where I become lost
in the scattering recollections
of things that were
and might have been,
and never should have.

All of my tomorrows
seemed locked in one day
that might have been yesterday,
the sky becoming more and more a distant voice,
barely articulate to me now
as the tangled earth awaits,
an embrace of intemperate mourning
among all that has fallen before us,
the yellow leaf and I holding on to each other
for dear life,
trying to remember the words of a prayer

that miraculously spreads its wings

just before we hit the ground.

The yellow butterfly and I rise,
fragile but forever,
into newness of life,
season-less and un-calendared,
toward everything that exists
on the other side of the distant mountains
within us.



With Our ‘Hole’ Hearts

“Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”

—Psalm 111

By Ken Woodley

Take my hand and I’ll take yours.

We’ll hold nothing back.

We’ll release our “Hallelujah!” from the highest peak, but also from the deepest valley. From the brightest day, but also from the darkest night.

We’ll give thanks to the Lord with our whole heart.

Every inch. Each corner of our heart.

Across our heart’s entire lifetime.

Down every hallway of our heart and inside every room—even those that we keep carefully locked, and sometimes pretend aren’t there.

Down certain hallways and inside particular rooms—those we try to pretend that we have left behind forever—is where we find the holes in our heart.

The places of deepest pain and sorrow that seem too deep and wide to wade through.

The places that make us feel as if we’re drowning.

How, we’ll surely ask ourselves, can we shout “Hallelujah!” about the things that have torn so many holes in our heart?

Such a thing is impossible, we’ll tell ourselves. It simply can’t be done.

But then we’ll turn on the light and find there is a way after all. We’ll discover that we aren’t alone in that room with the door that we had carefully locked. 

We’ll discover that the Lord has slipped in beside us after we’d turned the key, opened the door and stepped inside.

We’ll turn on the light see that we are not alone in that room that has been furnished with sorrow for so very long.

Sorrow walls and sorrow ceiling.

Sorrow sofas and sorrow chairs.

Sorrow air for sorrow breathing.

Sorrow holes in sorrow hearts.

But our hearts will keep on beating.

And then our hearts will win.

Because we’ll feel the Lord surrounding us with love, filling our hearts with love because the holes are where the Lord’s love most truly finds us, filling every hole of sorrow until the love runs over.

And we’ll feel the current of that love taking us away, out of the room, down the hallway. 

And we’ll hear the key falling to the floor because we won’t need it anymore.

The room is still there. We cannot erase any moment of our lives. But the door will remain open. The light always on. The shades ever raised. 

The holes are still there, too. Right there in our heart. They always will be.

But they are no longer places to mourn and fear because they are filled now with the Lord’s love.

God loving us just as we are. 

This is a miracle of truth for us all: the holes in our heart are where the Lord loves us the most because that is where we need it most.

For that we absolutely can shout ‘Hallelujah!’ and give thanks with our whole heart.

Every square inch of our lifetime.

Holes and all.

Especially when we find ourselves—again—in that room with the door we kept locked for so long.

The window within it now seems to have a different view.

“Hallelujah!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”

—Psalm 111

By Ken Woodley

Take my hand and I’ll take yours.
We’ll hold nothing back.
We’ll release our “Hallelujah!” from the highest peak, but also from the deepest valley. From the brightest day, but also from the darkest night.
We’ll give thanks to the Lord with our whole heart.
Every inch. Each corner of our heart.
Across our heart’s entire lifetime.
Down every hallway of our heart and inside every room—even those that we keep carefully locked, and sometimes pretend aren’t there.
Down certain hallways and inside particular rooms—those we try to pretend that we have left behind forever—is where we find the holes in our heart.
The places of deepest pain and sorrow that seem too deep and wide to wade through.
The places that make us feel as if we’re drowning.
How, we’ll surely ask ourselves, can we shout “Hallelujah!” about the things that have torn so many holes in our heart?
Such a thing is impossible, we’ll tell ourselves. It simply can’t be done.
But then we’ll turn on the light and find there is a way after all. We’ll discover that we aren’t alone in that room with the door that we had carefully locked.
We’ll discover that the Lord has slipped in beside us after we’d turned the key, opened the door and stepped inside.
We’ll turn on the light see that we are not alone in that room that has been furnished with sorrow for so very long.
Sorrow walls and sorrow ceiling.
Sorrow sofas and sorrow chairs.
Sorrow air for sorrow breathing.
Sorrow holes in sorrow hearts.
But our hearts will keep on beating.
And then our hearts will win.
Because we’ll feel the Lord surrounding us with love, filling our hearts with love because the holes are where the Lord’s love most truly finds us, filling every hole of sorrow until the love runs over.
And we’ll feel the current of that love taking us away, out of the room, down the hallway.
And we’ll hear the key falling to the floor because we won’t need it anymore.
The room is still there. We cannot erase any moment of our lives. But the door will remain open. The light always on. The shades ever raised.
The holes are still there, too. Right there in our heart. They always will be.
But they are no longer places to mourn and fear because they are filled now with the Lord’s love.
God loving us just as we are.
This is a miracle of truth for us all: the holes in our heart are where the Lord loves us the most because that is where we need it most.
For that we absolutely can shout ‘Hallelujah!’ and give thanks with our whole heart.
Every square inch of our lifetime.
Holes and all.
Especially when we find ourselves—again—in that room with the door we kept locked for so long.
The window within it now seems to have a different view.







Your Song

By Ken Woodley

Your notes call to me through the sun-filled leaves.

They dance with me through the swirling clouds of sorrow.

I cup them to my ear to catch and remember

the way you sang them to me

deep in the wilderness of myself

when the silence felt like quicksand,

pulling me in

and under

toward the torn places

inside me

that feel like the farthest edge of the world

but where I always find you

in the moment of my most dire need,

driving dragons away

into a place where dragons breathe no fire

and I go dancing beneath the sun-filled leaves

through the swirling clouds of sorrow

that give your song

my voice.

And we sing.

And we sing.

And we sing

as others remember

how you sang to them

deep in the wilderness of themselves

when the silence felt like quicksand,

pulling them in

and under

toward the torn places

inside them

that feel like the farthest edge of the world

but where they always find you

in the moment of their most dire need,

driving dragons away

into a place where dragons breathe no fire

and they go dancing beneath the sun-filled leaves

through the swirling clouds of sorrow

that give your song

their voice.

And they sing.

And they sing.

And they sing.

And I hear your voice

in their song

echoing in my soul

as the silence bursts into supernova

And we sing.

And we sing.

And we sing.

All of us.

Every single one.

Together.

Even you.

Especially you.

By Ken Woodley

Your notes call to me through the sun-filled leaves.

They dance with me through the swirling clouds of sorrow.

I cup them to my ear to catch and remember

the way you sang them to me

deep in the wilderness of myself

when the silence felt like quicksand,

pulling me in

and under

toward the torn places

inside me

that feel like the farthest edge of the world

but where I always find you

in the moment of my most dire need,

driving dragons away

into a place where dragons breathe no fire

and I go dancing beneath the sun-filled leaves

through the swirling clouds of sorrow

that give your song

my voice.

And we sing.

And we sing.

And we sing

as others remember

how you sang to them

deep in the wilderness of themselves

when the silence felt like quicksand,

pulling them in

and under

toward the torn places

inside them

that feel like the farthest edge of the world

but where they always find you

in the moment of their most dire need,

driving dragons away

into a place where dragons breathe no fire

and they go dancing beneath the sun-filled leaves

through the swirling clouds of sorrow

that give your song

their voice.

And they sing.

And they sing.

And they sing.

And I hear your voice

in their song

echoing in my soul

as the silence bursts into supernova

And we sing.

And we sing.

And we sing.

All of us.

Every single one.

Together.

Even you.

Especially you.


Agape Grace

By Ken Woodley

Neither of us saw it coming

that late, but not too late, afternoon in Galilee

by the sea at sunset,

the light skipping across the water

as if someone had thrown it 

from the other side of the sky.

It just happened.

Neither of us could stop it.

Neither of us wanted to.

The light shining to us.

Then through us.

Completely.

A heart-on collision.

There were so many broken pieces

that felt wondrously brand new.

My hands were at the end of your wrists.

Your fingers were at the end of my arms.

We started to put ourselves back together again

the way we’d been born

but stopped and asked ourselves “Why?”

This kind of love is not ours to break,

you said with my voice.

And we couldn’t even if we tried,

my dreams told your sleep

as your heart beat inside me,

the word love so far beyond the tip of our tongue

that it spoke in the wind

and became the air we breathed in holy communion

with each other,

walking out across the water of the world together

to see if anyone would believe

that all of this is true,

despite the echos of hammers on nails

and the wounds that will never go away

but give our love a place to go

and grow flowers from the scars.

By Ken Woodley


Neither of us saw it coming

that late, but not too late, afternoon in Galilee

by the sea at sunset,

the light skipping across the water

as if someone had thrown it

from the other side of the sky.

It just happened.

Neither of us could stop it.

Neither of us wanted to.

The light shining to us.

Then through us.

Completely.

A heart-on collision.

There were so many broken pieces

that felt wondrously brand new.

My hands were at the end of your wrists.

Your fingers were at the end of my arms.

We started to put ourselves back together again

the way we’d been born

but stopped and asked ourselves “Why?”

This kind of love is not ours to break,

you said with my voice.

And we couldn’t even if we tried,

my dreams told your sleep

as your heart beat inside me,

the word love so far beyond the tip of our tongue

that it spoke in the wind

and became the air we breathed in holy communion

with each other,

walking out across the water of the world together

to see if anyone would believe

that all of this is true,

despite the echos of hammers on nails

and the wounds that will never go away

but give our love a place to go

and grow flowers from the scars.

No ATMs Needed

By Ken Woodley

“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God”

Please forgive me if you find me swanking about the place as if I owned it. But, you see, I had forgotten that I’m a millionaire. Just rolling in the stuff. Got in sackfuls. The lucre’s just busting out everywhere. 

I feel, in fact, as if I am writing this week’s meditation for Forbes Magazine. You know, from one millionaire to another.

Because I mean, dash it all, that what with one thing or another, some of you may have forgotten that you are millionaires, too. 

What, not true? Not millionaires?

Au contraire.

The take-away from this week’s Gospel lesson requires a Brink’s truck and a good vault at a bank.

Or, no, it doesn’t.

Our capital gains have nothing to do with the stock market. Neither Dow nor Jones—what crazy, amped up, knee-jerking reactionaries those two Wall Streeters are, eh?—can diminish our wealth one little bit. 

We fear neither bull nor bear.

Why?

Jesus said so.

In today’s lesson from Luke, someone asks Jesus to tell his (the speaker’s) brother to divide up the family inheritance rather than hogging it all. “Take care,” Jesus responds, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’

Then Jesus tells the parable of the rich man whose farm lands gave him so many bumper crops that the granary should have been made by Ford or Chevy. So large a harvest does he get that his existing barns can’t hold it all and he decides to tear them down and build bigger and better ones for his grains and goods.

“And I will say to my soul,” the farmer continues, “‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.’”

But, God doesn’t endorse this fiscal policy and calls the man a fool because “this very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

Pertinent question. God’s usually are.

“So it is,” Jesus goes on to explain, “for those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Rich toward God.

What a phrase, and one that can be interpreted several ways. It can mean, of course, that we should share our time, talents and treasure to bring the kingdom of heaven closer for people in need.

But, as I read the lesson, it struck me more forcefully that acting rich toward God means acting like, well, we are rich.

Not because of our own fiscal accumulation but because the wealth that matters to our soul is the love and grace freely given to us by God. And God is not stingy with that love and grace.

We got it by the Brink’s truckload.

But “being rich toward God” means acting like we know it, opening our hearts and souls to the deposits of love and grace that God has for us. 

Toward God” means pointing ourselves, inclining our heart, mind and soul in that direction, and moving toward that love and grace. It means acting like the millionaires we truly are.

It also means being generous millionaire philanthropists and sharing that love and grace with others to bring them closer to the kingdom of heaven.

Sharing it like we’re just rolling in the stuff. Like we got it in sackfuls. Like it’s falling from the pockets of our soul.

Because we do, and it is.

By Ken Woodley

“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God”

Please forgive me if you find me swanking about the place as if I owned it. But, you see, I had forgotten that I’m a millionaire. Just rolling in the stuff. Got in sackfuls. The lucre’s just busting out everywhere.
I feel, in fact, as if I am writing this week’s meditation for Forbes Magazine. You know, from one millionaire to another.
Because I mean, dash it all, that what with one thing or another, some of you may have forgotten that you are millionaires, too.
What, not true? Not millionaires?
Au contraire.
The take-away from this week’s Gospel lesson requires a Brink’s truck and a good vault at a bank.
Or, no, it doesn’t.
Our capital gains have nothing to do with the stock market. Neither Dow nor Jones—what crazy, amped up, knee-jerking reactionaries those two Wall Streeters are, eh?—can diminish our wealth one little bit.
We fear neither bull nor bear.
Why?
Jesus said so.
In today’s lesson from Luke, someone asks Jesus to tell his (the speaker’s) brother to divide up the family inheritance rather than hogging it all. “Take care,” Jesus responds, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’
Then Jesus tells the parable of the rich man whose farm lands gave him so many bumper crops that the granary should have been made by Ford or Chevy. So large a harvest does he get that his existing barns can’t hold it all and he decides to tear them down and build bigger and better ones for his grains and goods.
“And I will say to my soul,” the farmer continues, “‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.’”
But, God doesn’t endorse this fiscal policy and calls the man a fool because “this very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
Pertinent question. God’s usually are.
“So it is,” Jesus goes on to explain, “for those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Rich toward God.
What a phrase, and one that can be interpreted several ways. It can mean, of course, that we should share our time, talents and treasure to bring the kingdom of heaven closer for people in need.
But, as I read the lesson, it struck me more forcefully that acting rich toward God means acting like, well, we are rich.
Not because of our own fiscal accumulation but because the wealth that matters to our soul is the love and grace freely given to us by God. And God is not stingy with that love and grace.
We got it by the Brink’s truckload.
But “being rich toward God” means acting like we know it, opening our hearts and souls to the deposits of love and grace that God has for us.
“Toward God” means pointing ourselves, inclining our heart, mind and soul in that direction, and moving toward that love and grace. It means acting like the millionaires we truly are.
It also means being generous millionaire philanthropists and sharing that love and grace with others to bring them closer to the kingdom of heaven.
Sharing it like we’re just rolling in the stuff. Like we got it in sackfuls. Like it’s falling from the pockets of our soul.
Because we do, and it is.



Casting Our Nets

By Ken Woodley

I throw myself into the water,

just where Jesus tells me to,

his voice reaching out through the darkness from the shore

where small flames begin to flicker into fire,

and I swim around the fishing boat on my back

looking up at all of the sudden stars

that twinkle like happy eyes

a very long way away

that still seem right beside me

and I open my own eyes wider

to catch all of their light

and twinkle back,

hoping they will feel that I am 

right beside them, too.

And this was my catch:

light,

not fish,

so much light 

that my net could not contain it.

All of the light went shining off in every direction

toward everyone else fishing in the darkness

for a reason to keep sailing upon this often stormy sea.

Just as their light has often found me

and led me on

to this very moment

where I understand that light 

is not meant to be caught, scaled and sold in the marketplace.

This passage through the darkness is meant for sharing.

Meant for a holy and loving communion with others,

Jesus explains when I stand

warming my water-dripping shivers by his fire

on the shore,

his eyes twinkling like two happy stars

right beside me

as he gives me a roasted fish to eat for breakfast

and a loaf of bread that he has broken for me

and for you

as we embrace in this shimmering pool of light.


By Ken Woodley

I throw myself into the water,

just where Jesus tells me to,

his voice reaching out through the darkness from the shore

where small flames begin to flicker into fire,

and I swim around the fishing boat on my back

looking up at all of the sudden stars

that twinkle like happy eyes

a very long way away

that still seem right beside me

and I open my own eyes wider

to catch all of their light

and twinkle back,

hoping they will feel that I am

right beside them, too.

And this was my catch:

light,

not fish,

so much light

that my net could not contain it.

All of the light went shining off in every direction

toward everyone else fishing in the darkness

for a reason to keep sailing upon this often stormy sea.

Just as their light has often found me

and led me on

to this very moment

where I understand that light

is not meant to be caught, scaled and sold in the marketplace.

This passage through the darkness is meant for sharing.

Meant for a holy and loving communion with others,

Jesus explains when I stand

warming my water-dripping shivers by his fire

on the shore,

his eyes twinkling like two happy stars

right beside me

as he gives me a roasted fish to eat for breakfast

and a loaf of bread that he has broken for me

and for you

as we embrace in this shimmering pool of light.

Another Heart and Another Set of Shoulders

By Ken Woodley

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

                                                    —Jesus

The weight is so heavy.

Too burdensome.

I don’t see how I can go any further.

No way.

It has been so hard for so long.

Years and years, it seems, so another single step feels impossible.

The valley of this shadow seems to stretch forever and the slopes that surround me look and feel too steep. 

Each time I try to climb up and out of this, I slip and slide and stumble and fall. I am cut and bleeding and still this burden refuses to fall from my shoulders, fall away from my heart, or from my soul. Its weeds are everywhere and there are days when I cannot see my flowers. Can’t even smell them.

Today is one of those days.

The weeds of this burden blind me to even a single petal of one solitary flower.

And all around me are people on the same journey.

Carrying their own burdens that are too burdensome.

They don’t see how they can go any further.

No way.

It has been so hard for them, too, for so long.

Years and years, it seems, even if it has been a few days, weeks or months, so another step feels impossible to them.

The valley of the shadow surrounding them seems to stretch forever and the slopes surrounding them look and feel too steep.

Weeds surround them. Their flowers are nowhere to be seen. They can’t even smell them.

All of us have stumbled and fallen and the weeds seem certain to take every one of our blossoms away.

But, on our bruised and bleeding knees we pray.

Unable to gaze skyward any longer, we look down and see our bent and humbled shadow in prayer.

Prayer is all we have left, hopeless words searching for hope.

And that—yes, that—is when we see the second shadow.

A second shadow beside us.

Beside every one of us.

The shadow of someone carrying a yoke across his shoulders.

This shadow of the man and his yoke look just like the shadow of a cross, a crucified man somehow journeying right by our side.

Has he been there all along?

Did we mistake our burden for his?

Or his burden for ours?

None of that matters, we realize, as the flowers of this moment bloom, the sudden petals painting even the weeds into some kind of rainbow pasture where we rest and feel our burdens lifted. Our heads are anointed with oil. 

In a moment, we shall all journey on.

Our burden won’t be gone but it will feel lighter because we do not carry it alone.

Jesus knows all about crosses.

That is why he can help us carry our own.

By Ken Woodley

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
—Jesus

The weight is so heavy.
Too burdensome.
I don’t see how I can go any further.
No way.
It has been so hard for so long.
Years and years, it seems, so another single step feels impossible.
The valley of this shadow seems to stretch forever and the slopes that surround me look and feel too steep.
Each time I try to climb up and out of this, I slip and slide and stumble and fall. I am cut and bleeding and still this burden refuses to fall from my shoulders, fall away from my heart, or from my soul. Its weeds are everywhere and there are days when I cannot see my flowers. Can’t even smell them.
Today is one of those days.
The weeds of this burden blind me to even a single petal of one solitary flower.
And all around me are people on the same journey.
Carrying their own burdens that are too burdensome.
They don’t see how they can go any further.
No way.
It has been so hard for them, too, for so long.
Years and years, it seems, even if it has been a few days, weeks or months, so another step feels impossible to them.
The valley of the shadow surrounding them seems to stretch forever and the slopes surrounding them look and feel too steep.
Weeds surround them. Their flowers are nowhere to be seen. They can’t even smell them.
All of us have stumbled and fallen and the weeds seem certain to take every one of our blossoms away.
But, on our bruised and bleeding knees we pray.
Unable to gaze skyward any longer, we look down and see our bent and humbled shadow in prayer.
Prayer is all we have left, hopeless words searching for hope.
And that—yes, that—is when we see the second shadow.
A second shadow beside us.
Beside every one of us.
The shadow of someone carrying a yoke across his shoulders.
This shadow of the man and his yoke look just like the shadow of a cross, a crucified man somehow journeying right by our side.
Has he been there all along?
Did we mistake our burden for his?
Or his burden for ours?
None of that matters, we realize, as the flowers of this moment bloom, the sudden petals painting even the weeds into some kind of rainbow pasture where we rest and feel our burdens lifted. Our heads are anointed with oil.
In a moment, we shall all journey on.
Our burden won’t be gone but it will feel lighter because we do not carry it alone.
Jesus knows all about crosses.
That is why he can help us carry our own.

With This Love It’s Never Too Late

By Ken Woodley

With God and with Jesus, it is never too late.

Never too late for love to triumph over hate.

Never too late for light to rise above darkness.

Never too late for that which is torn to be mended.

Never too late for goodness to make evil cry “Uncle!”

Never too late to find passage through the narrow gate that leads to the wide, open, green pasture that our Good Shepherd has waiting for us.

That is one of several messages in a story made famous in the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus has appointed seventy of his followers to travel ahead, in pairs, to every town where he intends to go. 

And his instructions to those emissaries are quite specific. Carry no purse, he tells them, carry no bag, no sandals. 

Furthermore, whenever you enter a town and the townspeople welcome you, Jesus instructs them, cure the sick who are there and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”

But, Jesus adds—after letting them know he is sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves—whenever you enter a town and its people do not welcome you, go out into the streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.”

Wow, pretty dramatic stuff right there. Wiping even the dust of such a town off their feet sends quite a messages to the townspeople. But a message to his disciples, too, who suffered what would have been an aggressive lack of hospitality. 

“Don’t let it get you down, don’t let that experience burden you,” Jesus is telling them without saying it. “Wipe it off your feet.” He knows the physical act of wiping the dust from their feet will make its point in a powerful way to any disciples who find themselves leaving indifference, or outright hostility, behind.

But even such towns and the people who live in them are left with one last perpetual chance. Not simply one last chance. One last perpetual chance. Because that is what God and Jesus offer us—one last perpetual chance, a last chance that is going nowhere. A last chance that will follow us around, perhaps even tapping us on the shoulder from time to time, as if to say, “Hey, remember me? I’m still here.”

Even after all of that dust-wiping, Jesus informs the seventy disciples, there is one last thing they must do before they leave such towns and their people behind. Words they plant. Words that might still one day grow.

“Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”

Those are the last words and while they might seem to be part of a final rebuke they can equally, and perhaps even certainly, be regarded as a marker Jesus has his disciples lay down. Because, going back to the beginning of Luke’s lesson, sharing the news that the kingdom of God has come near you is the precise message Jesus told them to share with townspeople in towns that welcomed them.

So the blessing is the same, no matter what.

A perpetual signpost.

The open hand of Jesus left behind, offering the kingdom of God to any who wish to receive it.

A mustard seed that one day might sprout in the hearts and souls of at least some of those townspeople who think, and re-think, about what Jesus’ disciples had meant when they had told them “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.”

That is the message Jesus sent the seventy off to deliver and he has them share it even in the towns that are callously indifferent to them.

Not a final threat, not a final curse, not a final “this is what you missed.”

Instead, it is a final offer of God’s love. Or, “this is what you can still have.”

A final offer that will live forever somewhere in the memory of those who heard it, no matter how the town welcomed, or did not welcome, the disciples.

There each day, there every day, simply waiting for acceptance.

Because, with God and with Jesus, it is never too late.

Not for them.

Or us.

By Ken Woodley
With God and with Jesus, it is never too late.
Never too late for love to triumph over hate.
Never too late for light to rise above darkness.
Never too late for that which is torn to be mended.
Never too late for goodness to make evil cry “Uncle!”
Never too late to find passage through the narrow gate that leads to the wide, open, green pasture that our Good Shepherd has waiting for us.
That is one of several messages in a story made famous in the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus has appointed seventy of his followers to travel ahead, in pairs, to every town where he intends to go.
And his instructions to those emissaries are quite specific. Carry no purse, he tells them, carry no bag, no sandals.
Furthermore, whenever you enter a town and the townspeople welcome you, Jesus instructs them, cure the sick who are there and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”
But, Jesus adds—after letting them know he is sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves—whenever you enter a town and its people do not welcome you, go out into the streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.”
Wow, pretty dramatic stuff right there. Wiping even the dust of such a town off their feet sends quite a messages to the townspeople. But a message to his disciples, too, who suffered what would have been an aggressive lack of hospitality.
“Don’t let it get you down, don’t let that experience burden you,” Jesus is telling them without saying it. “Wipe it off your feet.” He knows the physical act of wiping the dust from their feet will make its point in a powerful way to any disciples who find themselves leaving indifference, or outright hostility, behind.
But even such towns and the people who live in them are left with one last perpetual chance. Not simply one last chance. One last perpetual chance. Because that is what God and Jesus offer us—one last perpetual chance, a last chance that is going nowhere. A last chance that will follow us around, perhaps even tapping us on the shoulder from time to time, as if to say, “Hey, remember me? I’m still here.”
Even after all of that dust-wiping, Jesus informs the seventy disciples, there is one last thing they must do before they leave such towns and their people behind. Words they plant. Words that might still one day grow.
“Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”
Those are the last words and while they might seem to be part of a final rebuke they can equally, and perhaps even certainly, be regarded as a marker Jesus has his disciples lay down. Because, going back to the beginning of Luke’s lesson, sharing the news that the kingdom of God has come near you is the precise message Jesus told them to share with townspeople in towns that welcomed them.
So the blessing is the same, no matter what.
A perpetual signpost.
The open hand of Jesus left behind, offering the kingdom of God to any who wish to receive it.
A mustard seed that one day might sprout in the hearts and souls of at least some of those townspeople who think, and re-think, about what Jesus’ disciples had meant when they had told them “the Kingdom of God has come near to you.”
That is the message Jesus sent the seventy off to deliver and he has them share it even in the towns that are callously indifferent to them.
Not a final threat, not a final curse, not a final “this is what you missed.”
Instead, it is a final offer of God’s love. Or, “this is what you can still have.”
A final offer that will live forever somewhere in the memory of those who heard it, no matter how the town welcomed, or did not welcome, the disciples.
There each day, there every day, simply waiting for acceptance.
Because, with God and with Jesus, it is never too late.
Not for them.
Or us.





There Is No ‘Only’ In Mustard Seeds

“He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

We are all mustard seeds.

A mustard seed in the womb.

And then a mustard seed in this world.

One small piece of God’s dream for love and peace on Earth.

A punctuation mark in the great unending novel of humanity and its journey through darkness into light. 

But, we are not just mustard seeds. This isn’t a case of having to settle for only being a mustard seed. 

There is nothing “only” or “just” about being a mustard seed and a mark of punctuation.

Because punctuation makes all the difference. 

And so can we.

Which is what Jesus wants us to understand.

What could be smaller than a period, comma or semicolon?

But, what has more potential?

A period, and something ends.

A comma, and something continues.

A semicolon, and two things are joined together.

We are all sown into this world as completely helpless babies. Totally vulnerable mustard seeds. Not even aware of our own two hands and unable to hold up our head. 

But, oh, how that changes. How that mustard seed grows through the years until we truly do have the power to make things end or continue, and the ability to join things together.

For better or for worse.

How fortunate—given our ability to build up with love or break down with hate—that each of us human mustard seeds has the ultimate mustard seed inside us:

Our soul.

And, man, how that mustard seed can grow.

Our souls can become gigantic Redwood Trees of compassion and towering Sequoias of peace and reconciliation.

And when that happens we are able to provide “shade” for so much more than nesting birds.

Human beings can find shelter in our acts of determined kindness toward one another. Especially when we put our mustard seeds together.

When two or more of us gather together to address the world’s great need for love, that is how we become an entire forest of “shade” for those abandoned in the tree-less wilderness of indifference.

Wonderfully, however long we live we never grow up and out of our “mustard seed-ness.” 

When we keep our hearts tuned to the Holy Spirit, we can remain mustard seeds until the day we die, able to put our comma, our period or our semicolon in just the right place to completely change the story.

Because the mustard seed inside us is the kingdom of God.



“He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

We are all mustard seeds.
A mustard seed in the womb.
And then a mustard seed in this world.
One small piece of God’s dream for love and peace on Earth.
A punctuation mark in the great unending novel of humanity and its journey through darkness into light.
But, we are not just mustard seeds. This isn’t a case of having to settle for only being a mustard seed.
There is nothing “only” or “just” about being a mustard seed and a mark of punctuation.
Because punctuation makes all the difference.
And so can we.
Which is what Jesus wants us to understand.
What could be smaller than a period, comma or semicolon?
But, what has more potential?
A period, and something ends.
A comma, and something continues.
A semicolon, and two things are joined together.
We are all sown into this world as completely helpless babies. Totally vulnerable mustard seeds. Not even aware of our own two hands and unable to hold up our head.
But, oh, how that changes. How that mustard seed grows through the years until we truly do have the power to make things end or continue, and the ability to join things together.
For better or for worse.
How fortunate—given our ability to build up with love or break down with hate—that each of us human mustard seeds has the ultimate mustard seed inside us:
Our soul.
And, man, how that mustard seed can grow.
Our souls can become gigantic Redwood Trees of compassion and towering Sequoias of peace and reconciliation.
And when that happens we are able to provide “shade” for so much more than nesting birds.
Human beings can find shelter in our acts of determined kindness toward one another. Especially when we put our mustard seeds together.
When two or more of us gather together to address the world’s great need for love, that is how we become an entire forest of “shade” for those abandoned in the tree-less wilderness of indifference.
Wonderfully, however long we live we never grow up and out of our “mustard seed-ness.”
When we keep our hearts tuned to the Holy Spirit, we can remain mustard seeds until the day we die, able to put our comma, our period or our semicolon in just the right place to completely change the story.
Because the mustard seed inside us is the kingdom of God.