Friday, April 30, 2004

State of unSaintliness

1. "To err is human, to forgive divine."

2. "A true state of forgiveness is reached when you can feel bad for the person doing what he did to hurt you." -- paraphrase from a bit of wisdom found on a meditation-of-the-day calendar.

Suffice it to say that I have not reached that state of Saintliness (with a capital "S"). I am just a wretched saint.

If you're unfamiliar with how the terms are used in the church, a "saint" is any person in the communion of believers. I am a saint, a believer. But I am not a Saint, which I define as a person of exceptional goodness and holiness. I am no Mother Teresa. I am no Saint Theresa.

I have not yet reached a state of forgiveness for my brothers. But I have realized through this family nastiness that God really has done a lot of healing in me the last few years. I really can turn it over to Christ. I am aware of his providence in my life, and I have learned to trust Him. His love is my armor.

I will be able to forgive those brothers. I know this because I have been able to forgive others, even as in the second definition, which is seeing what they've done as a product of their own woundedness and having compassion for that.

I have come to forgive my mother in this way. I was a terribly anxious child. I always felt I could never please -- I could never be pretty enough or smart enough or do things right enough to please her. Nothing would ever be enough to make my mother really love me.

Of course, I know she was acting out of the wounds she received in her childhood. She grew up with her own overwhelming anxiety, a product of a broken home, a father of whom she was a bit afraid and didn't trust, a mother who had to go to work (back in the days when they were supposed to stay home with their children and not get divorced, no matter what) and often had to leave her home alone or with relatives.

She never got over it, and I have seen the result of it in her life -- her loneliness, her isolation, because she feared rejection. She was never able to reach out to others, which is such a shame. I have been able to, these years, to understand her, to look at her with compassion and love and pray for her and me.

This healing took a lot of work on His part. I have to be thumped a couple of times just to get my attention.

But I've been learning, learning to lay down hurts so they hurt me no more. Learning to turn my anxieties over to Him -- I am not yet "anxious for nothing," but I don't carry the burden of anxiety with me the way I used to.

I realized that a week or so ago, when something anxiety-provoking happened that a few years ago would have had me in a complete tizzy for days. It wasn't a major thing, but it never took that much. Now, though, I was able to pray about it, ask God for his help and go on about my business without agonizing.

You know what? He did take care of it.

There have been very difficult times the past few years with a number of biggies -- job situations, family, finances. He has been right there with me through it all, helping me get through them. And He's given me so much.

He's given me a family -- I'm surrounded by loving people I've come to know because He brought me into the church. I have a job I really like. It doesn't pay much, but I've gotten by. That's a gift from God, too.

The only way I can express my appreciation to Him is through offering Him thanks, both in prayer and in action. Maybe one day, I will be much more like Mother Teresa. I'm praying to have that kind of love and compassion in me.

I'm glad I'm a saint. I'm glad for that cloud of witnesses around me.

The unSaintly Pat

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Family ties

Family matters have been pressing this past week, the reason I haven't posted anything. Two of my brothers came down and we/they cleaned out my mother's house to start getting it ready for sale.

It's been a difficult experience. For one thing, it's sad seeing my mother's life here just disposed of. All the things she accumulated over the years with my father and all the junk she pack-ratted away the last few years. And these situations tend to not bring out the best in families. This didn't bring out the best in mine.

There wasn't much I really cared to have out of my mother's house. The only thing I really desired was a desk one of my brothers also wanted. I ended up with it, and one set of a couple of sets of china, and a dining room table neither of them wanted but I could use. They hauled some other stuff to my house that they didn't want and I didn't either and simply loaded other things on their trucks without any discussion.

They had preferred I take care of all the house-clearing and junk tossing, then put the furniture and good things in storage for them to get at their leisure, but I didn't.

I've been trying not to be resentful. I've needed the help of the Holy Spirit to get through this. It's been the same pattern through the past few years. I've been here dealing with it all -- my mother's deterioration, the difficulty in dealing with her, dealing without any backup from anyone when I tried to get her out of the house before she got so bad (and this is a shame, because she would be in so much better shape now if she had been in assisted living that last year or so).

Then I dealt with the hospitalization and getting her into assisted living at a good place, dealt everything alone -- neither of them even came down until she had been at assisted living for a while -- but they always want to be in charge. They would have let her go back home alone for a few months until they found some time to come down and make the decisions.

So I let them do all the heavy work on this -- getting the furniture and piles of junk out of the house. There are still things to do, such as clean out some closets and books and miscellaneous things that won't involve heavy lifting. I'm going to have a cleaning service come in and clean afterward. The house is very dirty because my mother wasn't cleaning and taking care of things much the last couple of years and didn't want anyone coming in to her house to do anything. She would get offended even if family tried to do things.

It's sad.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Hiding a lamp under a bowl

Found an interesting interview from The Living Church posted on Kendall Harmon's web site yesterday. Here are some highlights from "The Temperature’s Rising."

In a recent interview, the Rev. Canon David Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the American Anglican Council (AAC), stressed the need for secrecy in planning the March 14 service, threatened similar acts of canonical disobedience in the future, and predicted a public relations disaster if the House of Bishops attempts to discipline those who participate.

“The role of the AAC is to match people with problems,” Canon Anderson said. “The national church leadership overwhelmingly is trying to take everyone down a road they have no right to go. We want to raise the heat to such a temperature that revisionist bishops will stop harassing orthodox parishes and clergy.”

The AAC, according to Canon Anderson, became convinced soon after General Convention that it would need to conduct even routine planning in secrecy when the group was accused of being “schismatic,” and he claims shortly thereafter the harassment began. Since then pre-event details are released on a “need-to-know” basis and “we now advise clergy not to open any mail or take phone calls from anyone other than family members during the countdown phase,” he explained.

Those who participate in unauthorized sacramental functions are made aware in advance that there may be severe consequences, but Canon Anderson considers this unlikely for several reasons. First, he said, the group studies the canons carefully to avoid needlessly exposing ordained leadership who are involved in organizing an event. In Ohio, for example, the local priests did not even vest for the service. Lay members from the six churches served as sponsors for the confirmands. Second, Canon Anderson believes the national church is unwilling to risk further damage to its international standing within the Anglican Communion and its carefully cultivated image as an “inclusive and tolerant” church by conducting a “McCarthyesque ecclesiastical inquisition.”

Hmmm. I think there's an appropriate Bible quotation for this. Oh, yes, the Gospel of Mark, 4:21-23 (NIV):

A Lamp on a Stand
He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."

It appears the AAC doesn't have much of a light to shine into the world. It hides under a bowl or a bed.

One of the hallmarks of a repressive society or organization is the veil of secrecy it throws over its actions. 'Zactly who is calling whom "McCarthyesque"? Oh, wait a minute. Anderson's talking about the national church not wanting to act other groups.
So what did you expect?

The Diocesan Board of our Diocese of Central Florida voted to send funding to the Anglican Communion Network. I think that's what they're calling themselves now. I tried to look at their web site and got a message I'm not authorized to enter it, though my diocese is sending them $20,000, which includes payment retroactive to January 1.

That we're sending them money comes as no surprise. Back in the old days last fall when the AAC was getting individual parishes to sign up, part of the charter was that the parish would send a significant contribution to the AAC. (Now, even the Network has quit denying that they are the AAC.) I suspect that diocesan money has been going to the AAC for a good while, in one way or another.

So while my diocese is not sending the money it should to the national church, because of the "default," which I never trusted, anyway, it is funding this organization which operates in secrecy, which operates against the national church.

So I'm not putting any money in the collection plate. No portion of my donation will go to the Network or the AAC. Not one penny for tribute. That's MY default. I'll put donations into specific ministries of my parish, money that stays in my parish, and send some to the national church. Not that my little bit makes any difference. It's just the thought of it.

At the same time, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is saying the African provinces are rejecting US funding, since it's tainted by having a homosexual bishop in the church. As someone in the Voices of Central Florida Via Media group asked, just who will suffer from this? Not the archbishops. Hungry, sick children, most likely. Akinola made a lot of noise, but the official CAPA statement the next day didn't say it would refuse money -- it's giving ECUSA three months to "repent."

This is from an article on Episcopal News Service, with a quote that pretty well sums up my own sense of their mixed-up priorities:

At the Episcopal Church Center in New York, the Rev. Benjamin Musoke-Lubega, partnership officer for Africa, expressed surprise at the CAPA statement's strong emphasis on the issue of human sexuality.

"In my capacity, I have visited many of the provinces in Africa and observed what goes on the continent," said Musoke-Lubega. "I wonder why the primates did not address the issue of genocide that is currently an issue in the Darfur region of Sudan, the conflicts in Northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the continuing situation in Liberia, and especially the tragedy of HIV/AIDS, which affects millions of Africans daily?"

(From an article "Mixed signals emerge from Nairobi meeting of Global South primates" by Jan Nunley, Friday, April 16.)

These primates made statements to the effect that they're going to maintain their African culture, whatever that implies. Too bad they don't want to allow for anyone else's cultural difference.

Well, I thought to myself, if they refuse ECUSA's money, maybe it will make up the national church's budget deficit. Of course, if they should refuse money from ECUSA, I'm sure they will accept it from our Network dioceses.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Baby soldier blues

Christopher at Barbaric Yawp sent me this via e-mail, since my puny "comments" won't accept anything over 1,000 characters.

It speaks powerfully for itself, so I won't add any comments, other than to say Christopher and I have shared a few e-mails in the past about the horror of this kind of war, both in-service and after.

Christopher's e-mail:

Once again, I have exceeded the word count limit in your comments section, so I'm sending it by e-mail.

Perhaps a song I wrote some years ago is in order here...


You went when you were just eighteen, with glory in your eyes,
Believing in your country, God and truth.
And suddenly you landed in a jungle full of fear
That killed your soul and robbed you of your youth.
You thought that you would find
Something noble in your mind
That somehow all your sacrifice made sense.
But you found out they lied
And something in you died
And now you're on the outside of the fence.

(Chorus) And hey, hey, short-time soldier
The torment and the tears won't go away.
And hey, hey, short-time soldier,
They fixed it so that you can't even pray.
And it seems like only death will set you free,
And "Don’t mean nothin'" is your litany.

The bullets, bombs and booby traps just never seemed to quit;
You never knew what moment you might die.
And just about the time you felt you might be safe at last,
Here came Agent Orange from the sky.
There wasn't any hope
And so you turned to dope,
Anything to give your nerves a rest.
Your brain went out of gear
For that everlasting year,
A cruel and insane survival test.


Your friends got wasted one by one, wondering why they died
And now you can't get close to anyone.
And then you came back to the world, thankful for your life,
But nervous 'cause they took away your gun.
And when they let you out
There wasn't any doubt
That you were not the boy you were before.
And, yes, you felt the lack
When you weren't welcomed back
And knew America had slammed the door.


You’re always in the movies and always on the tube,
A wild-eyed and stressed out psychopath.
They call you baby-killer and they spit upon the ground.
The war was bad, but why this aftermath?
So now you hide away
And you won’t come out by day.
You keep the dreams away with dope and booze.
And it’s a goddam shame
That you had to change your name
Runnin’ from a war you didn’t lose.


Bainbridge Island, Washington

Friday, April 16, 2004

Deja Vu

I don't want to say I told you so. I'd rather be wrong. But things in Iraq are unfolding as I saw at the beginning of this war, with our troops engaged in combat in cities where snipers and guerrillas can fire on them from windows or hurl bombs that blow up their tanks.

It didn't take clairvoyance to figure this out, just looking at history. It's deja vu.

It is, as Sen. Ted Kennedy said, "Bush's Vietnam."

Just as in Vietnam, we sent babies in to fight a war. Most of the enlisted men were green kids just out of high school, just as they are now. I heard an ABC-TV commentator (I think it was on the Easter Sunday morning news) talk about the youth, "the babies," of our forces in Iraq and how many of them still have stuffed animals somewhere, and how he keeps hoping he won't see any names he recognizes on the casualty lists, for he was in Iraq with these babies earlier in the conflict.

More and more of them are being killed.

The ones who aren't being killed are becoming desensitized and callous. It's how to survive. While the corporate men sit in board rooms and calculate earnings. While a president tries to figure out how he can come out ahead in the polls. It's an election year. Just like Vietnam.

To pull out now would risk being called "loser." Bad for vote-getting. The answer? Send in more troops, young and ill-trained for what they'll face, just like Vietnam, and the body bags of our soldiers and the civilian casualties will pile up. Just like Vietnam.

The level of fear and antagonism toward anyone who might be the enemy ratches up. Our soldiers can't tell who is friend or foe, so all of "them" become the foe. Just like Vietnam.

So, atrocities happen, just like Vietnam. Consider My Lai: PBS, The American Experience, Viet Nam in the Trenches: My Lai Massacre.

These lyrics have been rattling around in my head for weeks:

Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me.

("Sympathy for the Devil" - lyrics by the Rolling Stones)

You've got to give the devil his due. He does good work, and he's there. Just like the other places he's been. Like Vietnam.

If I had any babies in danger of being drafted, I'd send them to Canada, instead. Just like families did in the days of Vietnam.

(Note: for more "deja vu" go to Pilgrim's Progress or Father Jake Stops the World.)

Update 04-17-04:

Another American hostage, surrounded by masked gunmen, on the television.

More testimony that President Bush was planning an invasion of Iraq since his election, recounted in Bob Woodward's book Bush's Plan of Attack: The Road to War. Colin Powell advised against it, telling Bush he would end up buying the country, as in, "You break it, you buy it." Rumsfeld's thinking prevailed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

There's no place like home

I'm going to let you in on a secret. It has a bit to do with why I wrote the last post -- I've still got a little pissiness in me about my last parish. I've been remembering some of the hurtful things.

The reason I've been remembering that is because I'm becoming quite attached to my new parish. It's that broken trust kind of makes you feel a little leery when you find you're getting attached in a new relationship.

The people I knew before I started at Church of the Open Arms (not its real name, but close enough) are even more dear to me. I'm getting used to their moods, their difficulties in trying to accomplish their tasks, and their generosity through it all. Yes, I mean you, assisting priest, and the deacon who has been determined to put me to work (bless her heart) even though the rector has wanted to take it a bit slower -- to allow me to adjust, grieve, and (I think he was thinking), in case I was to bolt back to my old parish -- or somewhere else.

I'm getting used to him, too. I loved the Holy Week services. He has an artistic, dramatic flare that makes for some beautiful services.

I especially liked the Saturday night Great Vigil of Easter, with all its magic and mystery, cantoring, processing inside and out, and dramatic lay readings. And the baptism. Baptisms are the most wonderful of all occasions, with the community involvement in support of the newly baptized and the reaffirmation of our own baptismal covenant.

The little girl who was baptized Saturday night was alternately giggly and serious. The rector officiated at a small pool designed for quiet meditation in the courtyard, wading in, getting his pant legs wet. Before starting, he beckoned us all down close -- then splashed us after the baptism. Sucker!! It's like going to Sea World and being dumb enough to sit in the front rows when Shamu is performing -- you're gonna get it.

There's Mrs. Rector, who is very different from other priests' wives I have met -- in a good way. She is very involved in the ministry of the church. She usually doesn't take much time with make up or the vanity things, but Saturday night she was glamorous!

And the assisting priest -- I've got to start calling her something else -- I've got to think about this -- who is warm and caring and has a great sense of humor, even though she has too many demands on her time.

I put a gag gift down in a bag of Easter goodies for her: genuine, jasmine-scented Angel Snot TM. It's billed as "The gift of precious fluids from heaven's messengers...Medieval people believed each sneeze was a bit of soul escaping the body, and only a quick blessing could stop it. The phrase 'God Bless You' was a summons to angels to restore the breath, or soul of the sneezer. Although no one knows what the soul looks like, we can offer the life-giving breath of angels, Angel Snot TM. This beautiful pearlescent substance is a solid manifestation of the miraculous power of angels...You will never be alone as long as you keep a little bit of Angel Snot TM with you."

I've just been waiting for a chance to unleash that Angel Snot. (TM)

Well, so far the Marvelous Mother (M&M?) hasn't called in the Canon to deal with me. I've heard no rumblings about excommunication. Heh.

I'm getting very attached to them all. I'm starting to know which parishioners are chipper and which are grumpy, and which of them are dealing with really awful illnesses or problems and need dedicated prayer.

I know how the old wooden pews in the chapel protest at those who would sit on them. I know the difference in smell between the chapel and the newer sanctuary. I'm used to the way they process in and out. I know who lifts their hands in praise. I know who does all the cooking for the soup kitchen.

It's feeling like home to me. I'm getting attached.

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Spiritual Abuse Dictionary

Are you a victim of spiritual abuse? Here's an interesting site that gives you words and terms often used in spiritually abusive situations, called
What Language Does Your Church Speak?.

There are a number of painfully funny definitions to which I can relate, apostate that I am! If you think you've been a victim of spiritual abuse, which is abuse of authority in a church or spiritual setting to control or manipulate its members, check it out.

I have an addition for their dictionary: "Baby Christian," which relates to "Unteachable." Used as a put-down toward someone who asks questions the powers-that-be don't like, so not being a cradle Episcopalian is used against her: "Oh, she's just a Baby Christian."

Of course, the utterer of that phrase doesn't stop to take into account that the Apostles were all "Baby Christians" who only had a few years experience of Christ before they started their own ministries.

But then, I'm an unteachable, divisive, apostate. What do you expect from a Baby Christian? (Just baptized four years ago, but who's counting?)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

He Lives, He Reigns

Listen to my story:

I slept against the hard stone of the tomb of my Lord, Jesus Christ, who had been crucified and buried. A couple of guards came by and poked at me, but I refused to move. I was too exhausted and too grieved to care. If they took my life, so much the better. I no longer needed it.

I went back to sleep.

"Disciple, wake up. Arise," came a voice.

I floated upward to consciousness from a very deep sleep.

"Awake. Your Lord needs you."

A creature stood before me, luminous in the dark. It was beautiful, the creature, but very strange. Almost like a man, but not. I had trouble seeing it properly. Its glow made it hard for me to focus my eyes on it.

The world was moving in odd ways.

"Don't go fainting on me. You have work to do."

The creature touched the stone in front of the tomb. It rumbled away from the entrance to the cave.

Listen. I saw the risen Lord.

He walked toward me. He was beautiful, so beautiful. He glowed with a luminosity much greater than that of the creature beside me.

It was Him.

I could see the empty funeral linens behind Him.

He was dressed in white. He moved with a fluid grace. I don't know how this could be, but it was.

It was the risen Lord, shining in glory. Listen to the Good News.

I remembered what He had said about the third day, that I didn't understand.

With one scarred hand, He touched my forehead. Peace came over me.

"Tell the others when they come. Disciple, you will make disciples. You will baptize in my name. Tell them of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

I could only say, yes. I knelt. He put His hand on the top of my head for a moment, then walked past me in radiance.

My clothes were now a beautiful white. There was no wound on my chest. My feet were clean and my skin was as fine as a child's.

He has done many miraculous things. But the most miraculous is that He lives. He will never die again.

"Wait here for the others," said the creature, which could only have been an angel.

I sat on top of the stone, waiting and examiring my new clothes and my new skin, when the Roman guards came back. I enjoyed their confusion over the open tomb.

"Are you looking for Jesus of Nazareth?" I asked in my best and most holy of voices. I chortled at the guards' confusion and alarm.

They looked into the cave and then looked at me in my new appearance with their mouths open, not recognizing the disciple they had tried to roust a little earlier.

"He is not here. He is gone. An angel came and moved the stone with one finger. Now He is risen and He is gone. He is the Lord God. " I was laughing, holding my sides. I realized: this is joy, come back into the world.

"He came to live among us. He died, but He rose again. He will never forsake us." I lifted my arms. "Share my joy!"

Share the Good News! Christ is resurrected. He will lead us in glory, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Follow Him. He reigns in mercy and love.

The guards backed away and ran up the path from the tomb.

I sat rocking myself, singing, praying and praising and laughing through the night. I was overcome with joy. I waited until I saw Mary Magdalene on the path, then I jumped down from the stone, landing lightly on my feet, ready to tell her the Good News.

Listen, all of you, to my testimony and we shall make disciples of many, for Jesus Christ is alive and He brings life in abundance, life everlasting, and the peace that is beyond all understanding.

His goodness and mercy will be with us forever.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Where is my God?

How can it be that my Lord is dead? I thought this cruel execution would be stopped. I prayed for it to be stopped. Yet my Lord is dead.

My God, have you forsaken me?

I am desolate with grief.

The people on the streets say, "Where is your Lord now?" and I run.

I run like a dog who has lost its master, loping this way then that, pawing the ground, panting with thirst.

I stop in a grove of olives. I rend my shirt. I claw at my chest until I see drops of bright, red blood fall to the ground. Yet there is no atonement for what we have done.

My God, my God, have you left us? We have broken the covenant You made with us. Have you abandoned us?

The sunlight is dull and wan and there are no stars.

I cannot sleep. Oh God, grant me death, too. My face is stiff with shed tears that bring no comfort and still I cannot sleep.

I stumble back into the city, avoiding the soldiers and the mockers, and ask where they have taken my Lord. I find the tomb. I sit and lean against the stone wall.

Was it only two nights ago that we broke bread? You washed my feet. I look at them now and they are filthy and bloody.

My God, where have you gone?

I will wait here for whatever is to come. I lean against the cold stone, and at last I sleep.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Who will wash these feet?

Feeling pissy, Satan asks, "For heaven's sake. If you're God, how can you demean yourself with their smelly, stinky feet ?"

Jesus looks at him with pity, then says, "Humility fosters love, both from the giver and the recipient."

"Oh, fine." Satan says. "Just continue with this 'humble servant' bit. See where it gets you."

"You will see," replies Jesus. He sighs. "Most of the time, my disciples don't get it, either."

This is a personal version of a Maundy Thursday meditation. It was meant to be read to you, as you relax in a softly lit room, or close your eyes:

A Maundy Thursday Meditation
based on the Gospel of John, Chapter 13.

This is a short Maundy Thursday meditation honoring Jesus’ ministry and
example of servanthood to us.

Please bear with me. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and regularly. Just breathe, in and out. In and out. Keep your eyes closed and imagine, as you breathe deeply.

Imagine that you are in Jerusalem, among Jesus' disciples. It has been a long week. Jesus came riding into the city as an honored prophet and much has happened. Many accepted Jesus as Lord and some continue their disbelief. Jesus has been saying some puzzling things that we do not understand, but tonight, we will relax and have this supper together.

It is the time of the Passover. As it is written in the Book of Genesis, "This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance."

It is the custom to bathe before coming to a banquet; therefore, we are clean except for our feet, which get very dirty on the streets and roads. Usually, a servant will bring water to wash the guests' feet before the banquet.

We came in, we disciples, and found our accustomed seats. We said prayers and sang songs just as we do every time we come together at the Lord's Table. Nothing seemed different tonight than any other night, except that Judas was gone, and except that tonight, there was no one to bring water to wash our feet, and no one volunteered. I thought about it, but didn't want to appear lower than my actual station, for I was a disciple, not a servant.

We proceeded with the meal. I was careful to keep my dirty feet out of sight. They discomforted me. I saw Jesus get up and wrap a towel around his waist.

I remember...

He starts to wash the disciples' feet. I draw back in embarrassment. I hear Peter protest, then acquiesce. I hang back in confusion, hoping to avoid notice.

Why then, Lord, are you now kneeling in front of me with a basin, a pitcher and a towel, like a servant? Are you going to wash my feet, too?

No, I can't allow that. I can't let you be like a servant to me.

I am shocked at the thought of it.

My feet are dirty. They are caked with dirt, for I have been on the road this day. My toenails are thick and uneven. The nails and cuticles of my toes are grimy. My feet are covered in thick calluses and dry, cracked, peeling skin. And dirt.

Lord, I can't let you look upon these feet, much less touch them. You were not meant for this.

These ugly feet are not a fit offering to the Lord. I keep them tucked back, hidden from his sight.

Kneeling, Jesus looks up at me.

Ask something else of me, Lord, and I will give it, I will do it.

I see love in his eyes, love for me; he is filled with love for me and I am smitten in return. I know that he understands my embarrassment, my pride that makes me want to hide these unattractive members from his sight. I understand that he already knows what to expect. He has seen -- there is nothing of me or in me he hasn't seen. He still loves me.

He looks at me through those eyes, and I begin to understand. Like Peter, now I want to ask to be washed all over. I want whatever will make me more worthy. But I understand. This is what he requires tonight.

Because you ask this, I will do it.

Hesitantly, I pull my feet from their hiding place and offer them to the Lord. His hands are gentle and soothing. The water sparkles as he pours it over my feet. I hear a soft murmuring and splashing of water.

Layer by the layer, the grime is washed away. The water is soothing, relaxing. I feel the blood moving through my feet, my hands, my heart. I surrender to his ministrations.

As each layer of soil is removed, I am renewed yet again. Jesus' hands are healing me as the water restores me. He holds my feet as he carefully dries them with the towel. The dirt and the old, dead skin are gone. My feet are clean and warm. I am restored.

Who am I that my Lord should tend to me as a servant? No one. It is his love, his love only, that makes me worthy.

I am filled with a deep peace.

Thank you Lord, for this gift.

This is what happened with the Lord on the night of Passover. He gave us a mandate to love one another, to be servants to each other. He gave us the example of humble service that we are to follow.

What I received from the Lord, I also hand on to you. Let me look upon you with Christ's eyes, see you with Christ's love, treat you with Christ's humility. Allow me now to follow Christ's example of servanthood. Please allow me to wash your feet.

We will be blessed if we do these things for each other.


I wrote another version, woven in with the Gospel, for use in a Maundy Thursday service.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Mystical longing for love

Demi at Pilgrim's Progress has a posting about Sufi mystic Rumi ( posted 04-01-04). I've been seeing the name but had never read any of Rumi's writings. It knocked my socks off. Longing for love, longing for the divine, for God's whole, Holy love.

His writing resonates with some of my own longings. I wrote this last year:

Lover of Souls

Oh Lover of Souls, I long for You.
Lord of All, I belong to You.
Secure me in Your embrace, Spirit to spirit,
So close that when You whisper, my heart will hear it.
Holy, Powerful God of the universe, it is You that I seek,
Whose love's expressed as gently as a breath upon my cheek.

But go on over to Pilgrim's Progress and read Rumi. He's much better. Be sure and read the one about how Jesus raised the dead.