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No Insurrection Can Topple This Truth

By Ken Woodley

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

—The Gospel of Mark

Four-fifths of our world is covered in water.
Eighty percent of the planet Earth.
The currents and tides touch every continent.
Water that washes over countless soles.
If I were to touch the last gasp of even the smallest wave at Virginia Beach I would be sharing that vast expanse of water with someone doing the same thing on the shores of Nigeria.
The wave wouldn’t care about the color of our skin.
Or where the beach was.
Neither does God.
No insurrection can topple that truth.
Oh, if we could only become more like those waves.
And see what God sees in all of us.
Just reaching out toward every soul.
Toward all accents and every pigment.
When I look down into the smallest stream at my reflection my face is mirrored by water that will one day join the great oceans and seas that cover the earth.
Water that will mirror the face of every man, woman or child who looks for their own reflection beneath a sky that knows nothing of race or ethnicity.
The Holy Spirit of God doesn’t fill our sails to narrow our journey.
The Holy Spirit fills our sails to broaden the reach of our heart.
The reach of the love for which Jesus gave his life; the truth that Jesus died for: God is love and God loves us all.
On every beach.
On any shore.
Every square inch of earth.
There is something we’d be wise to understand:
If we are good enough for God—and God’s love declares that we are—then we are good enough.
Period.
For anyone and everyone.
Period.
And so is everyone else.
There is no lie that could possibly erase that truth, though liars desperately try to cover the entire earth with their sea of falsehoods.
That must mean that we are good enough—we must be good enough—for each other.
Period.
Or … that’s the way it should be.
Unfortunately, we are separated from each other on this planet by more than water.
We are separated from each other by ourselves, and that can sometimes be the widest chasm of all to overcome.
Especially when we allow others to further divide and push us even farther apart.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he asked us to follow him and become fishers of people.
There are nearly 30,000 species of fish in the world.
We could never catch them all, no matter how hard we try.
But there is only one human race.
If only we would see part of our own reflection in every face.

By Ken Woodley

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

—The Gospel of Mark

Four-fifths of our world is covered in water.
Eighty percent of the planet Earth.
The currents and tides touch every continent.
Water that washes over countless soles.
If I were to touch the last gasp of even the smallest wave at Virginia Beach I would be sharing that vast expanse of water with someone doing the same thing on the shores of Nigeria.
The wave wouldn’t care about the color of our skin.
Or where the beach was.
Neither does God.
No insurrection can topple that truth.
Oh, if we could only become more like those waves.
And see what God sees in all of us.
Just reaching out toward every soul.
Toward all accents and every pigment.
When I look down into the smallest stream at my reflection my face is mirrored by water that will one day join the great oceans and seas that cover the earth.
Water that will mirror the face of every man, woman or child who looks for their own reflection beneath a sky that knows nothing of race or ethnicity.
The Holy Spirit of God doesn’t fill our sails to narrow our journey.
The Holy Spirit fills our sails to broaden the reach of our heart.
The reach of the love for which Jesus gave his life; the truth that Jesus died for: God is love and God loves us all.
On every beach.
On any shore.
Every square inch of earth.
There is something we’d be wise to understand:
If we are good enough for God—and God’s love declares that we are—then we are good enough.
Period.
For anyone and everyone.
Period.
And so is everyone else.
There is no lie that could possibly erase that truth, though liars desperately try to cover the entire earth with their sea of falsehoods.
That must mean that we are good enough—we must be good enough—for each other.
Period.
Or … that’s the way it should be.
Unfortunately, we are separated from each other on this planet by more than water.
We are separated from each other by ourselves, and that can sometimes be the widest chasm of all to overcome.
Especially when we allow others to further divide and push us even farther apart.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he asked us to follow him and become fishers of people.
There are nearly 30,000 species of fish in the world.
We could never catch them all, no matter how hard we try.
But there is only one human race.
If only we would see part of our own reflection in every face.







Jesus Gave Her Another Word

By Ken Woodley
The young girl heard The Voice Of The World shouting, “Can anything good come out of this child?”
The Voice was talking about her and its tone seemed to answer the question.
No, The Voice Of The World quite clearly felt, nothing good could ever come out of that child. And The Voice Of The World made certain that the child heard the answer.
But the child wasn’t the only one listening.
Jesus heard, too.
And Jesus wept.
Tears flowed for this child and for all of the children of God—no matter how old they were—who’d heard The Voice Of The World so often question, challenge and demean their child of God selves.
Demean them because of the color of their skin.
Threaten them with a pandemic.
Challenge them with lies.
Tear them down and apart with abuse.
Question them with callous indifference.
Swallow them with disease.
And enslave them with poverty.
Before abolishing their very existence with death.
The Voice Of The World shouted so loud that even the waves in the sea seemed to retreat, abandoning the beach where children once played behind, turning it into a desert.
But the tears of Jesus were like rain.
And Jesus lifted the child.
Jesus lifted the child and told her something else.
Raised the child up.
Jesus gave her another word that The Voice Of The World had tried so hard to erase.
Resurrected the child with four simple letters that Jesus carefully arranged:
L…
O…
V…
E…
Love? the child wondered.
Really?” the child asked.
Me?” the child pleaded.
“Come and see,” Jesus answered.
And so the child, carried in the loving heart of Christ, followed.
Followed despite all of the odds that the world said were stacked against every child of God.
Followed despite all of the statistics of probability the world declared would defeat all children of God.
Followed.
Miraculously.
Because Jesus carried her.
Because Jesus carries you.
Because Jesus carries all of the children of God to the truth of God’s love for them all.
And we are all children of God.
No matter what the World says with its hammers and nails.
No matter what the World tries so desperately to make the children of God believe.
A child risen.
The child in us all.
The child that God wants us all to be and believe to be our truest self.
Just who we are and just as we are.
Loved.
And nothing but loved.



By Ken Woodley
The young girl heard The Voice Of The World shouting, “Can anything good come out of this child?”
The Voice was talking about her and its tone seemed to answer the question.
No, The Voice Of The World quite clearly felt, nothing good could ever come out of that child. And The Voice Of The World made certain that the child heard the answer.
But the child wasn’t the only one listening.
Jesus heard, too.
And Jesus wept.
Tears flowed for this child and for all of the children of God—no matter how old they were—who’d heard The Voice Of The World so often question, challenge and demean their child of God selves.
Demean them because of the color of their skin.
Threaten them with a pandemic.
Challenge them with lies.
Tear them down and apart with abuse.
Question them with callous indifference.
Swallow them with disease.
And enslave them with poverty.
Before abolishing their very existence with death.
The Voice Of The World shouted so loud that even the waves in the sea seemed to retreat, abandoning the beach where children once played behind, turning it into a desert.
But the tears of Jesus were like rain.
And Jesus lifted the child.
Jesus lifted the child and told her something else.
Raised the child up.
Jesus gave her another word that The Voice Of The World had tried so hard to erase.
Resurrected the child with four simple letters that Jesus carefully arranged:
L…
O…
V…
E…
Love? the child wondered.
Really?” the child asked.
Me?” the child pleaded.
“Come and see,” Jesus answered.
And so the child, carried in the loving heart of Christ, followed.
Followed despite all of the odds that the world said were stacked against every child of God.
Followed despite all of the statistics of probability the world declared would defeat all children of God.
Followed.
Miraculously.
Because Jesus carried her.
Because Jesus carries you.
Because Jesus carries all of the children of God to the truth of God’s love for them all.
And we are all children of God.
No matter what the World says with its hammers and nails.
No matter what the World tries so desperately to make the children of God believe.
A child risen.
The child in us all.
The child that God wants us all to be and believe to be our truest self.
Just who we are and just as we are.
Loved.
And nothing but loved.

The Ascension Of Kong

By Ken Woodley

When I rose
I fell,
falling heavily
through stained glass windows
until they became
the sides of city skyscrapers
and I climbed
manmade stories,
knocking down planes
with upraised arms
until I found you at the top,
telling me that God is Love,
and I turned to see
the shadow
of my former self
lying on the street
below.

By Ken Woodley

When I rose
I fell,
falling heavily
through stained glass windows
until they became
the sides of city skyscrapers
and I climbed
manmade stories,
knocking down planes
with upraised arms
until I found you at the top,
telling me that God is Love,
and I turned to see
the shadow
of my former self
lying on the street
below.

In Any Direction We Might Choose In 2021

By Ken Woodley

The alarm sounds early on this winter’s morning that is still as dark as night.

Sunrise is nearly two hours away and it’s so cold beyond this windowpane that even the world’s shivers are frozen solid.

A small lamp on my desk near the windowsill shows how busy the cold has been while I slept. The storm window is filled with jagged, deliriously crooked strokes of ice that point in every direction.

Were the design on the windowpane a compass, and were I to follow its directions, I fear that I’d be lost.

Hopelessly and forever lost.

On a morning this cold and this dark, I feel a little lost anyway.

But a new day is coming.

A New Year is on the way.

The 12 months that have been 2020 are going, going, gone.

The year 2021 feels, maybe, like it could be, just might be, coming to the rescue.

But there have been blessings this year and I refuse to allow COVID-19 to erase them. I count them, instead, determined to carry these blessings forward with me into the new year:

I have heard my wife say “I love you,” held my two-year-old granddaughter while she slept and played in her imagination, splashing in “sun puddles,” after she awoke, heard a black-billed cuckoo sing in the summer woods by a stream…

…Savored the aroma of spicy chicken cooking in the kitchen, basked in the warmth of my 13-year-old dog in my lap, finished writing a novel that had called to me for years…

…Saw the full moon shining brightly among the pastel pinks and blues of dawn-painted clouds and remembered that the sun has risen every day, listened to Patrick Stewart read Shakespeare’s sonnets, found out a second granddaughter will be born next month and began dreaming about her imagination…

…Saw Monarch butterflies in November, cheered as genuine good guy, Clayton Kershaw, won the World Series at last, read new books, re-read the wondrous P. G. Wodehouse—again…

…Sang “Silent Night” wearing a mask, saw mountains suddenly arise in the distance, heard the call of Canada Geese when there were none in sight, shared some words about God and Jesus and felt ripples of peace, spent time with all of you wherever you are, so many blessings…on and on and on…

Out beyond this pane, where I cannot see, I know that the maples and oaks are bare in the darkness, their limbs and branches holding tightly to the secret of spring as if their lives—as if the existence of everyone—depended on it.

I remember last night, standing out in the cold, filling my lungs with its freezing and then filling the darkness with my warm, rising, ghosting breath.

I remember the night before and the night before that.

I remember all of the nights put together as if they were all one long, never-ending night.

I remember the stars making the night sky look like it was breaking out in a rash of ice and I wondered if one day I would fall through the ice into the sky.

Or beyond the sky.

I sit here by the window now, looking at the stained glass cross that is hanging from the window latch; its green and orange, its yellow, blue and purple declaring everything that moments of darkness cannot hide from my soul, even if I cannot see everything with my eyes.

And I know one thing for certain: when the sun rises, the light of this new day will shine toward me, into the frost and through the cross, in the straightest possible line.

With that truth deep in my heart, I am able to decipher the message in the frost that has been painted across my windowpane like the blooms of winter and pointing the clear way forward, despite its zig-zagging pattern:

Any and every direction I might choose is filled with God’s love, in all of my sorrow and all of my joy.

And in all of yours.

A 2020 Vision For Christmas Eve

By Ken Woodley

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring…Well, maybe a mouse.

Some stockings were hung. Others were not. Some wondered if Christmas would find every spot.

The pandemic still spread its worrying concern, challenging us to find lessons to learn.

To treasure the moments that all of us share. To help and to heal. To reach out with care.

We were thinking of family and thinking of friends, praying that COVID would soon come to an end.

When up on the hillside there arose such a noise: angels and shepherds all singing of joys.

A child has been born, they sang with a smile, and we were determined to walk every mile.

Away toward that manger, through rain, sleet and snow, as if there were no place that we’d rather go.

We were six feet apart and all wore our mask. We were ready for whatever our savior might ask.

The moon hung like an ornament high up in the sky, but a star shone far brighter and seemed so nearby.

The lion was ready to lay with the lamb, if we’d just believe in God’s holy plan.

Closer we came to the manger scene now, immune to our fears in some way and some how.

There wasn’t a wise man, no, nowhere in sight, just ordinary folks feeling love’s holy might.

There was no barn and no stable, no building at all, but the child still within us did answer the call.

The babe in the manger would find shelter here, in our hearts, in our souls whenever we care

For others who hurt, for others in pain, and give of ourselves, with nothing to gain.

Turning our cheek when the anguish is ours so a field full of thorns can blossoms with flowers.

No room at the inn but room inside us who give birth to a message we know we can trust.

In the love Jesus promised God has for us all, whether we stand, stumble or fall.

For black and white and red and brown, for all the colors in between. We are pigments of God’s imagination, of God’s great love dream.

No virus can touch it. No, none can come close. This love is a spirit, no Halloween ghost.

This great truth will cover the Earth, a gift we unwrap through this sacred birth.

Away in that manger, no crib for a bed, but born every day in our footsteps, instead.



The Sanctuary Within Us

By Ken Woodley

Here we are again. Once more, there will be no Sunday services at my church for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19.
In the spring, the initial pandemic-driven cessation of services came just before Easter. Now, after a few months of services, the second forced hiatus comes less than two weeks before Christmas.
Perhaps some of you are facing the same challenge at your own places of worship.
The steps of this journey haven’t been easy. But life isn’t one tranquil step after another. Each of us lives that daily truth in a way that is unique to us but part of our common human condition.
A condition that Jesus shared with us, too.
The terrain of our journey is rough, tricky. It is easy to stumble on some hidden twist, an unforeseen turn along the way. What an unforeseen bend in our road the coronavirus has proven to be.
It is so easy to fall at times like this. Especially emotionally. Mental and spiritual bruises happen. They just do. But we help each other back up again and put each other’s feet on a straight path where God is leading us.
And we are still being led by God, whether we are gathered in the same place—church, temple, synagogue—or not.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, Jesus encourages humanity throughout the Gospels. Sometimes those words are much easier to read, and type, than it is to add them to the yeast of our daily bread.
We are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit and we all have each other.
Even now, we are on a journey toward one another, a journey in and with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised his disciples in Galilee and promises us today.
Yes, for now the doors of my church will not be opening for Sunday services.
But my church is not closed. Nor does your place of worship have to be.
If we keep our hearts and souls open, our churches are open too.
Wherever we are, there, too, is St. Anne’s or St. Stephen’s or the Immaculate Redeemer, open to the world, standing in our shoes.
Yes, the terrain of this zigging zag in our journey’s road is tough. But it can prove spiritually rewarding, too, if we let it. Just as lifting weights makes us physically stronger.
Don’t forget that very first Christmas. The one in Bethlehem after the long, hard journey from Nazareth for Joseph and Mary. That wasn’t easy, either.
The months in exile afterwards, with a newborn son, would be even harder still.
But the angels sang to the shepherds, anyway. Oh my, how they did sing.
And they are going to sing this Christmas, too.
No, our churches are not closed.
Neither are we.
Just ask the “angels” from our church’s Angel Tree, and yours, who’ll be opening presents on Christmas Day.
I definitely know that we all feel the temporary loss of our church services, especially now at Christmas. Tears filled my eyes last Sunday when I learned that service would be the final one, for now. I had to stop myself from audibly weeping.
The sanctuary of my church is a truly sacred space and I will go there to pray on my own, from time to time, feeling the spirit of my congregation’s communal presence.
And that is so important to remember: all places of worship are revered spaces but they are also a spirit we all share.
No pandemic can cancel that spirit. No pandemic can even touch it.
We will be together again in that sanctuary some day.
Until then, let’s carry that sanctuary within us.
And keep its doors always open to all.

A Season Of Luminous Shards

By Ken Woodley

There is a flickering melody in the depth of this COVID winter.
A fragment of singing light.
A small miracle that can make all the difference.
Pushing back against the pandemic darkness that tells us every day in quaking headlines that there is no God and that we are not—and could never, ever be—loved.
A luminous shard that seems to have fallen from somewhere among the stars.
Somewhere beyond the sky.
Somewhere beyond the most distant piece of the last thing that our eyes can see.
Coming from that which the darkness denies.
The darkness trying with all of its might to persuade us that the melody we have followed, the voice we hear singing in the wilderness, is a figment of our imagination.
But the song won’t be stilled or silenced.
Sometimes it even feels that the song has taken shelter inside of us, has become somehow a part of us.
But the song is not my own composition.
And the song is not yours.
Nevertheless, we both hear and feel it painting contours of light.
And now, look. Certainly, the flickering brightens as the music soars, as if our persistent steps have somehow fueled the light’s desperate reaching.
A desperate reaching out toward …
Can it be true?
A desperate reaching out toward us?
Toward us all?
Every race.
All people.
Without exception.
My, God! It is true!
Even so, astonishingly, there is still more.
There is something within the light, like one of those large sugar Easter eggs from my childhood. There was an entire landscape inside that you could see when you held the opening at one end up to your eye. I could never bring myself to eat it its sweetness.
But I am swallowing now and it’s as if the light has wrapped the greatest gift of all inside its bright shining:
An entire landscape of love brighter than the sun we cannot always see.
A landscape of love that the darkness cannot hide forever.
An advent.
THE advent.
A coming that the darkness is powerless to stop.
A coming that has found us.
Found us cupping flickering candles within our souls, moving forward now in a darkness that has become, in this moment, nothing more than a place where the light of this love might embrace us all with greatest effect.
But there is one vital condition to answer this prayer.
One great big IF:
Only if we allow that light within us now to shine outward in every direction and into every hidden corner and cul-de-sac.
If we become fragments of light.
Small miracles that can make all the difference.
Pushing back against the darkness that tells everyone in the world in quaking headlines that there is no God and that they are not—and could never, ever be—loved.
Luminous shards of singing light that seem to have fallen from somewhere among the stars.
Somewhere beyond the sky.
Somewhere beyond the most distant piece of the last thing that our eyes can see.
Coming from that which the darkness denies.
Risen even somewhere here in the world.
Rising, some day, all over the earth.

Wilderness “Advent-ure”

By Ken Woodley
There always seems to be another wilderness, doesn’t there?
One more “wilderness moment.”
And some are bigger than others.
COVID-19 keeps us in a wilderness that has already lasted more than half a year. And this pandemic-driven landscape is in addition to our own personal wildernesses.
With recent storms, the trees in my part of the world are mostly shorn of leaves, bare limbs silhouetted against the sky.
But in the early morning, and then again at sunset and into the gloaming, they are compelling sights. Their stark darkness emphasizes the beauty of a new day’s dawn and reminds us of its wonder as that day passes away.
They are not unlike our own outstretched prayers reaching up from our souls toward the heavens after wilderness moments have stripped away all of our own “leaves.”
Like beauty, the wilderness can be in the eye of the beholder.
And, crucially, there are leaves we cannot see that are nevertheless storm-proof and beyond the grasp of seasons.
In nature, even the seemingly barren wilds have their own transcendent splendor, if we look hard enough with a discerning eye. Our moments of inner wilderness can provide hidden gifts, as well. They can reveal opportunities for spiritual adventure. Difficult ones, perhaps, but adventures nonetheless.
As we begin the season of Advent, let’s re-frame our minds and set a determined course to have an “Advent-ure” between now and Christmas.
The wilderness doesn’t have to be relentlessly dangerous or continuously scary. It can be liberating. Deepening. Filled with epiphanies, large and small.
The wilderness, after all, is where things happen because it removes all of our artificial props and distractions.
The wilderness is where we can most deeply encounter the Holy Spirit.
Jesus knew the wilderness. It was where he embraced his shepherding ministry of servanthood after overcoming the temptation to rule the world.
The wilderness is where we embrace our own spiritual destiny and truest selves, often overcoming the temptation to regard ourselves as lost or left behind.
We are nothing of the kind.
It may seem that we are in a lonely place.
But that’s alright.
That can, in fact, be a good thing.
Jesus often sought out a lonely place to pray, contemplate, and commune with God.
Lonely places are where things happen.
And there’s an interesting thing about the word lonely.
Remove the first L and the word becomes “onely.”
A “onely” place.
A place where we may become one with Jesus, even if only for a flashing instant of reverberating epiphany.
Where we might become one with God for a single breath that goes on breathing.
Where the Holy Spirit brushes past us, touching our arm in a way that tells us it won’t be last time.
Christmas is weeks away.
What an “Advent-ure” it can be getting there from here—with Easter in our hearts.

The Kingdom Of Heaven Is This Close

By Ken Woodley

Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
How near?
As close as you and I.
And as far away.
The social and political environment created by COVID-19 has amplified the voices of those who want to divide us according to such meaningless differences as race, gender, sexual identification, and theology.
Voices that deny our shared humanity, our brotherhood and sisterhood across any and every human-made border.
The egotistical thirst for power is generally behind the allegiance to divisive falsehoods and the desire to have them believed.
The pandemic also amplifies our own fears and that can make it harder to hold on to the truths that unite us.
It can keep “The Kingdom of Heaven” here on Earth, of which Jesus so often spoke, perpetually over a distant horizon and on the other side of an unending bend in our journey together.
As each day grows shorter here in the Northern Hemisphere, I strive to focus upon voices of light, healing and unity in diversity. And I thank God for servant leaders who look out at the world, rather than surrounding themselves with mirrors.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
What a profound statement. What a wondrous truth.
People from around the world read this blog. In dozens of countries. I am humbled and amazed. Your companionship keeps me going.
I am an American. You are Belgian, Ugandan, Chinese or one of so many other nationalities. But, most importantly, we are all children of a loving God.
And the Kingdom of Heaven, at least a small, vital seed of what it can become, is within each of us.
So, the Kingdom of Heaven is very, very near.
If we let it germinate. If we let it grow. If we seek and share its harvest.
We can begin by removing any barriers within us that might keep the “Kingdom of Heaven” from taking root in this world today.
Tearing down any “wall” that might stand between our compassion and those who need our healing touch.
A healing touch that might simply be a word finally spoken from deep behind the borders of our own heart.
We might not be able to change the world but we can certainly get the attention of the next person we meet. A simple smile and a kind word can go further than we think. Just consider how long a harsh word hurts. Sometimes for years.
Our world today is torn apart at so many seams. Our “stitch in time” can make a real difference for goodness.
Let’s not let the pandemic turn up the volume on voices of division.
Let’s use the environment created by COVID-19 to amplify our own voices of light and love, reaching out to each other, joining hearts and hands over and through every barrier.
Until every barrier is gone.
And only the Kingdom of Heaven remains.

Finding My Better Angel

By Ken Woodley


Unburdened of my solitary reflection

at last,

I discover your orbit around me

and find my true self in your intimate proximity,

feeling the happy warmth of this risen skin

between us,

closer and closer until we touch

undiscovered days and hold them,

rising and setting,

un-calendared between heaven and earth—

certain of both,

afraid of neither—

love freeing us from all gravity

as we swallow the Milky Way together

and wonder how far the speed of our new communion of light

will take this finally-answered prayer,

determined to find the flickers of those

surrounded by something darker than pitch,

illuminating their own way forward,

you and I running the same relay of light

that found my own smoldering wick

of hope, faith and purpose

after the nails tried desperately

to hammer them into obsidian oblivion.

Now, with you, I feel my own

life’s resurrection,

instead

and together

we shine

with the better angels

gathering all around us

on this Emmaus Road

to become a better day.