Archive | April, 2020

The Bowl And Towel

9 Apr

It seems like only yesterday
I got this bowl and towel.
The bowl is cracked, the towel worn thin.
I would have wagered there and then
I’d never use these things.

We sat at table with our Lord
and talked of happy times.
The meal was done, the hour late,
we all began to speculate
about what he would say.

But when he stood and turned to move
toward one end of the room,
with no word said, he turned his back,
picked up a bowl and from a rack
removed a common towel.

The room was now completely still.
He walked to Peter’s chair,
there knelt and from a pitcher near
poured water  cool and crystal clear,
then reached for Peter’s foot.

“My Lord, what are you doing? Please!
It’s I who should be there.
I cannot let you wash my feet!
It is not right for you to treat
your servant in this way.”

“If you refuse to take my gift
you’ll not be one with me.”
“Oh, Master, please! I cannot live
without the love and hope you give.
Wash feet and head and hands.”

From Peter, Jesus moved  to all
and washed our dirty feet,
then called each one of us by name,
and one by one to him we came
to get a bowl and towel.

My earthen bowl is smooth with age,
my towel is frayed and torn.
But these I cherish more than gold
for they remind me how he told
that we must do the same.

The years have gone, and so has he.
No longer can we share
an evening meal, a pleasant song,
a desert breeze, his handshake strong.
Just these of him remain.

 

Look At Me!

7 Apr

It’s nice to gasp once in awhile, to just stand awe-struck at sudden and unexpected beauty.
Do you think he knows that he’s above average?  What does he think when he lands on a tree limb next to a common sparrow?
I’d like to believe that he is not a feathered show-off,
but that he’s comfortable in his own skin, so to speak.  We have
enough show-offs in the world these days.  Sometimes they
wear Wall St. attire, sometimes political faces (usually two),
or helmets and shoulder pads, even clerical finery.

But there are folks around who have grown their humility
taller than their pride.  Even with the finest looks or the biggest
bank accounts, they’d rather watch a parade than be in one.
It seems to me that on any given day, humility is in short supply
and yet it is one of the principal ingredients of the Christian faith.

Lots of wild flowers along the roadways now, but I’ve not seen one
of them hold up a sign and say “Look at ME!”  They are content to be beautiful without making a big deal of it.  Lillies of the field…birds of the air…what did Jesus say about those lillies?
“…even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
Now, that’s a high compliment. 

So for all of us who are beautiful…on the inside if not on the outside…don’t flaunt it.  You might bump into my friend above
and that’s pretty stiff competition. Opt for humility.

Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

6 Apr

I’m not sure where or when I first heard this sentence:  “You cannot give what you do not have.”  Makes sense.

In regard to our spiritual lives, the quotation applies in several ways.  Scriptures teach us that “We love because He first loved us.”  It’s the same principle.  It is very difficult to give love if you’ve never experienced being loved.  Forgiveness, if you’ve never been forgiven.  Comfort,  if you’ve never received and experienced comfort from someone else.

Among suggested readings for this Monday in Holy Week is 2 Corinthians 1:1-7.  Take a moment and read it and let your focus fall on verse 4:  “…God consoles us in our affliction so that we may we be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourseles are consoled by God.”  Just as it would be virtually impossible for me to educate someone about Jesus if I’ve never learned anything about him myself, or to introduce someone to Jesus if you’ve never met him yourself, so our abilities to offer comfort and consolation grow out of our personal encounter  with the Grace and kindness of God.

Having received, we are to give.  Loving consolation is given to us for our blessing and healing, but it doesn’t stop there.  Having received, we are obliged to give.  Was it Harry Truman who said: “The buck stops here”, referring to his presidential accountability?  Well, the blessing doesn’t stop here, not with you or me.  It moves through us to touch others in need.

So, when you count your blessings, count out an equal number that you can bestow upon the people you meet, those who would be encouraged and strengthened by the comfort of a loving Creator.

 

No Easter This Year?

5 Apr

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I overheard a conversation recently, quite by accident, and it went
something like this:
This virus pandemic has really messed up my personal plans.
How so? the other person asked.
Well, I had tickets for a European trip and now they are useless.
My daughter and new granddaughter were supposed to
visit in May, but that’s doubtful.  And I’m trapped in my house
like a prisoner. My church is locked and now we won’t even
have Palm Sunday or Easter.

No Palm Sunday?  No Easter?  Really?
A reminder for us all:  Easter does not depend on whether I sit in
a pew or not.  Easter will happen even if my church is
locked up tight.  Resurrection happens!
Resurrection happened last week, and yesterday and new life
will occur today and in all the tomorrows to come.  The calendar does
not determine Resurrection, the Spirit does, and does, and does.

So even if we can’t experience the powerful celebration of Easter
in the church building, we can, and will, celebrate as the
scattered but united Body of Christ.
Today is Palm Sunday.  Next Sunday is Easter.
It will happen!
Nothing can stop Resurrection!

 

Six Feet Apart

4 Apr

When I was growing up in Dallas, I learned a time-honored sentence
that described disdain and contempt: “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10
foot pole!”  I applied it to liver and onions and mincemeat pies.
Today the pole has been cut down to 6 feet.  “I wouldn’t come within
6 feet of him/her.”

And for good reason.  “Social distancing” used to be “keep your distance”
but now there is an urgency to distancing oneself from casual contact with
this deadly virus that people carry unknowingly.  Today my wife and I are
going to visit two friends who need some information on “streaming,” another
term that is a child of our era.  I don’t remember my parents ever asking our
neighbor: “How’s your streaming?”  If they had, the reply would have been, “Mind
your own business!”

When we arrive at their home, we will be ushered to the backyard patio
and to chairs that are spaced precisely 6 feet apart.  No hugs, no handshakes,
no elbow taps, only symbolic gestures that don’t feel nearly as good as the real
thing.  We’ll talk about the basics of streaming, me on my laptop and my friend
on his, and given the depth of our knowledge, we’ll probably end up with an
article written in Greek about what to feed your pet Yak.  Not a lot one can do
effectively at 6 feet apart.

But for all my grousing about social distancing, I am so grateful to the scientists,
researchers, health care providers, first-responders, and anyone else who has
placed the health and welfare of human kind above their own personal safety.
If you’re looking for a hero today, don’t go to Hollywood or to a professional
sports league.  Think about the EMT down the street in the fire house, or the
Emergency Room nurse, or the guy who drives thirty miles to deliver paper
towels and toilet paper to a homeless shelter.  Plenty of heroes to choose from.
Figure out a way today to express your appreciation for one of them, and take
time to thank God for their courage and willingness to step to the front of the line.

If we happen to see each other today at the grocery store, let’s agree to wave with a gloved hand, smile at each other, even though we won’t see it behind the
masks, and abide by the “6 foot rule” which I will determine with the
6 foot stick I carry everywhere I go.

Be at peace today.  It’s a lot better than the alternative.

Strong Arms

3 Apr

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See the Navy crewman in the open side door of the helicopter?
He’s my best friend in the whole wide world!
He’s operating a winch that pulls me up, up to the open door
so that he can reach out, turn me facing away from the  door,
wrap his arms around my waist and pull me into the helo.
My best friend.

When I look again at this picture, I think of how often we feel
like life is just hanging by a thread; in this case, a metal cable.
Seems like what little control I used to have is gone and
I am entirely dependent on circumstances.  That’s not a fun
place to be.

High on my list of “the best feeling in the world” is the crewman’s
arms circling my waist after I’ve been dangling between the
deck of the moving ship and the turbulence of the helo.
Knowing that strong arms are holding me is a
great sensation.  I trust him.  He holds my life
when he pulls me up and when he pushes me
out the door as we hover over the next
ship I visit.
Trust.

People who follow the Way of Jesus understand
that trust in the Abiding Presence is essential
to spiritual health.  Radical vulnerability is frightening,
until, in faith, the arms embrace you and
courage returns.  Trust can be difficult in a very untrusting world,
but these are the days we need it most.

Replenishing and Renewing

2 Apr

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Lots of fond memories from lots of months and lots of miles on USS NASSAU (LHA 4).  When fully loaded, she carried several thousand people, all the vehicles for a US Marine
expeditionary group, and a squadron of Harrier jets.  You can imagine how much food, fuel, and general supplies were needed to keep the ship operational at sea for long periods of time.

The answer to that puzzle was the huge supply ship that pulled alongside and replenished necessary commodities while underway.  When we heard that a supply
ship was coming alongside, hearts beat a little faster and excitement rose on NASSAU
because there might be mail transferred to us and we wouldn’t have to eat brussels sprouts twice a day.  (You knew food supplies were running low when brussels sprouts began to appear regularly.)  So, at the appointed hour the supply ship came alongside
and ferried welcome pallets of this and that via metal cables extended between the two
vessels.

I tell you this because during this awful time of Covid19, some of us are showing signs of running low on supplies of hope, courage, resolve, maybe even faith.  The very good news is that you and I can be supply resources for our friends and neighbors who are running low.  We can come alongside, perhaps only figuratively now, but we can phone, text, email, write a note, Zoom, etc. and make a life-giving contact…replenish and help restore the determination to press on.  So, as you are able, sail up alongside someone soon and offer him or her that which has been given to you…love, grace, and hope.

By the way, the supply ship did not know we needed a replenishment visit unless we sent a signal or message.  It was quick to respond once the signal went out.  Just in case you are eating lots of brussels sprouts and need something more, don’t be embarrassed to let it be known.  Spiritual health is vitally important right now and Good News is ready to come alongside.

Thoughtful Walking

1 Apr

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Do you see the potential danger to someone who walks this path?

Rocks.  Big ones.  Loose ones just waiting for the preoccupied hiker.
All shapes and forms of rock line what could be, and should be,
a lovely morning walk.

Today it is possible that a pesky rock or two might be in your pathway.
I know I’ll encounter a few.
Here’s what I learned yesterday on this very path:
a. Pay attention to your feet; walk thoughtfully
b. Glance up once in awhile and get a sense of what’s coming:
that big pile of rocks ahead
c. If you want to see the beauty around you, stop
and refocus from feet to flowers.

Stop.
Walking without paying attention to the pathway is dangerous.
Walking with your head down, without pausing to refresh,
means you might miss something breathtaking.

Walk thoughtfully today.
Take obstacles seriously.
Stop a few times and see what’s around you.
Be grateful for the path, the rocks, the flowers.
Press on.  Pause.
Say “Thank You”