A Maundy Thursday example of love

“Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.”

― Francis of Assisi


(Mother Teresa’s bare feet)

I’ve used this image of Mother Teresa’s feet before in a previous post—
it was a post for a previous Easter that touched not only on the notion
of Jesus’ example of the washing of feet, but it explored our obsession with health,
wealth and all things fit and beautiful.

Like hands, feet are a good indicator of the type of life one has lived.

Rough, calloused and gnarly…
or
smooth, soft and pampered…

I tend to like the first notion…as in rough, calloused and gnarly being signs of
at best, a life really lived to the fullest….
or
at the least, lived to the best of ones abilities as
things had perhaps never been easy nor comfortable.

I find there is more character to be found in the rougher, harder, calloused side to living.

Following that evening meal of so long ago, a chain of events had been set in motion
and there was no turning back…
hope no longer remained in avoiding the inevitable.
I imagine everyone in the room that quiet night had a sense that things were to be
different very soon but as to exactly how, only one knew for sure.

The mood was somber…and not just because it had been a meal intended to
commemorate and reflect upon the struggles of a people from a previous time,
but rather because the master of ceremonies
himself was obviously melancholy as his thoughts were far removed.

Just as I know other types of jobs and services stress this same sort of approach,
in education, teachers are constantly reminded of the importance of leading by example.

Don’t just tell it or say it….
Do it and show it!!!!!
This so others may see.
Visual and tactile learning create a most lasting impression.

So Jesus set out that evening to do that very thing…
one more time…
to lead by example.

The point wasn’t just to wash feet.
Feet, as important as they are, are considered pretty lowly.
They aren’t the prettiest things to look at what with their bunions, hammer toes,
ingrown toe nails and rough cracked skin…
they can be oddly shaped, they get dirty quickly,
they usually stay covered up…for a reason,
and they are not the first things we prefer to look at,
plus they can smell.
Not good combinations.

So dealing with people and their feet has always been looked at,
other than from a podiatrist’s point of view, as something somewhat subservient….
especially if the feet are rough looking, with dirty cracked and broken nails…
Not the first thing most folks want to caress and love on…unless they’re a bit odd.

So naturally when Jesus set about wanting to wash everyones feet, he was quickly and
awkwardly rebuffed.
It was embarrassing to have the Master wash the dirty, dusty, dry feet of the followers.
Think of a General wanting to do such for a private…
As that’s exactly what it was like.
Unheard of….

But the washing wasn’t the lesson.

It was the leading by example.

The doing of and the action of that which would be otherwise considered lowly and less than,
being done to another…
As the recipient of such, that of the the washed,
would be thought to be more highly than the washer….

It was the notion of serving with the serving being of such a lowly but very respectful
and loving manner…that that was the key.
Doing something so lowly but doing it in pure unselfish care and love…

Mother Teresa’s feet are examples of a person who worked long and hard all her life—
her feet do not lie.
She toiled on those feet her entire life…always for others.

Being with Dad’s caregivers day in and day out, assisting as they had to turn dad from
side to side as I had to hold him up on his side towards me just so they
could wipe his bottom, cleaning him after he had soiled himself….

I marveled at the care and thoroughness in which one caregiver in particular
went about her task.

I don’t think I could have done or do what she did and does.
Taking care of the most basic needs of a human—
feeding and then cleaning…much as one does for a baby.

Baby’s are cute.

Old cancer ridden bodies that smell and are wasting are not.

As the days passed, physically moving dad was difficult as he winced and cried in pain…
but the cleaning still needed to be done…
And it was done with dignity, compassion…as

that is the rough, calloused, gnarly example of what love is all about…

“Love one another as I have first loved you…..”

And with the best way always being by example…..

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas,
the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,
and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet,
drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied,
“not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet;
their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said
not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should
wash one another’s feet.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Matthew 13:2-17

crime and punishment meets mercy

woman-caught-in-adultery

Two thousand years ago, or so the story goes, there was a woman who was accused,
by the elders of her community, of having committed adultery.
She was taken to the central courtyard of her village for punishment.

The woman was bound and dumped onto the hot sandy center of town.
Next she was surrounded by her accusers,
the men of the community,
who would now proceed to pelt her with rocks…
one rock at a time,
until she was dead.
All of which, depending on the size of stones, the number of men gathered, coupled with
the accuracy and speed with which each stone was thrown, death could be anywhere
from 20 minutes to 2 hours…
Slow, painful and torturous…

This was the required and assumed punishment for any woman accused of such an act…
never mind if the man involved was married and guilty, punishment did not usually await him.
And not all accused woman were actually guilty.
It was often a convenient deterrent to others…as well as a way to do away
with undesirables…

And so the story goes….

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning
he was back again at the Temple.
A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees
brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.
They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus,
“this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
The law of Moses says to stone her.
What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him,
but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said,
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one,
beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left
in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman,
“Where are your accusers?
Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said,
“Neither do I.
Go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

Fast forward to 2016 Iran.

Stoning is still an accepted form of punishment in many Middle Eastern countries.
It is still a widely practiced and totally acceptable means of punishment in
Sharia Muslim communities…and as we see from the recent following story out of Iran,
even to protest or write against such, is an equally punishable offense.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37575193

Mercy,
Grace,
Forgiveness
Hope…

or—

a fate buried in stone…

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Sailors delight eh….

“He replied,
“When evening comes, you say,
‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning,
‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:2-3

DSCN4194
(a view from the driveway on a sultry August Georgia evening / Julie Cook / 2016)

Red sky at night,
sailors delight….

Getting out of the car, at sunset, after a very, very long day
ferrying dad between this doctor and that doctor,
this lab facility and that medical center….
then spending almost 3 hours in traffic fighting to get home….
I look back, over my shoulder, toward the western sky.

The air is thick and heavy with the humidity of August.
Exactly how I’m feeling…weighted down and heavy ladened.

I sigh…

The evening is quiet.
A far cry from where I had just come.

Our son and daughter-n-law will be moving soon..
moving to the city I never seem to miss when I leave it.
But I can’t think about helping with packing and moving…
not yet…

I often think it not wise to write when life is so heavy
or…maybe that’s exactly when one should…write…
pouring out thoughts and feelings…
searching to match the right words with the right feelings…
sorting and making sense of the senseless…

A body that is tired and hurting
joining thoughts with feelings that now are swirling…
I look toward the red western sky…
as if seeking some sort of reassurance…

Surgery on Friday for dad…
the tumor too large to remove…
but trying to shore things up while buying some time…
Time…
another heavy thought…open-ended
full of uncertainty…

A red sky.

Signals a sailor’s delight…

In other words,
smooth sailing…

Hummm….

Again, a sigh…before heading inside…

Signs of the time…

As I am reminded, while looking at the sky…
in the midst of all the madness and heaviness,
That the Master of the sky…
and of the clouds,
and of the stars,
and of the land
and of the sea…
remains….

forever…

DSCN4193

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope
Jeremiah 29:11

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.

(courtesy the Library of Congress, Fun Science Facts)

Who is the Watchman

“For he hears the lambs innocent call.
And he hears the ewes tender reply.
He is watchful while they are in peace.
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.”

William Blake

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
Thomas Merton

DSC00546
( a threesome of crows / Julie Cook / 2015)

Chasing dreams or chasing demons
In the darkened night of silence we slumber

Are we cautious sleeping with one eye open
Or do we rest free of worry and dread

Who is charged with the midnight watch
Who stands ready to sound the warning

Danger bays at the gate
While Trouble lurks in the shadows

Wickedness waits ready to strike
Will the Watchman see the signs

When fatigue deadens the senses
Precarious security wraps up the weary

As the winds rustle through the tress
The enemy circles the camp

Remember the Master stands ready to return
Will the enemy route his arrival

Be mindful you who slumber
Be cautious of demons masquerading as dreams

Where is thy peace
How may we rest

Listen all you who have ears to hear. . .
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
Ezekiel 33:7

The beauty of the harvest

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

IMG_0642
(offerings from the yard–Yellow tomato, yellow bell pepper, thyme, basil / Julie Cook / 2014)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Oh how we marvel at the wonders that seem to literally sprout from out fingertips. We toil and labor—tilling, sowing, watering, watching, imagining. . .then triumphantly sit back in self righteous wonderment at the results and fruits of “our” doings. . .

When in actuality, with little to none of our input, buried in the cloak of darkened soil and hidden away from all to see, lies the true and marvelous mystery of Creation. As much as we boast about the results of our toil and labor, there is not much that we, from our hands and talents, will have done which can actually permit us to take full credit—-for we are merely the co-workers in this mystery of life and growth.

It is the Master of Creation, who with one single sweeping motion of His hand, has sent the seed in motion—germinating, sprouting, growing and unfurling into a fanfare of sustenance. Oh yes we may till and work the ground, we may gently lay the seed, we may weed, water and watch, but it is the Master who works in hidden silence.
Constantly, consistently and mysteriously providing for both you and I.