faith, Jesus, Light

Low & Mighty on Passover Eve

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Exodus chapter 12 describes, well, the exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt.  On the night they were to leave God instructed them to roast a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat in haste with their loins girded, sandals on their feet and staff in hand.

“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.”

And so it is that the Passover is celebrated faithfully, year after year.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that the Last Supper took place before the festival of the Passover.  It was Passover Eve.  Not Christmas dinner, but Christmas Eve dinner.  The rehearsal dinner, not the actual wedding banquet. The Last Supper was not the actual Passover Seder, it was the night before.

John’s gospel tells us a few more things about that evening:

  1. Jesus was aware that He would soon be returning to His Father.
  2. He was aware that each and every one of His dinner companions had been given into His hands.  That’s what the phrase, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” means.  “All things” is better translated as “each and every one.” Each and every one of them was gifted to Him, even Judas.
  3. He loved His charges with an agape  love. One aspect of agape is “to be full of good-will toward.”

And so it was with love and good will that Jesus sat down to His last human supper.

In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes nobility, perfection, constancy, and immortality. It is viewed as the most valuable of all precious stones.

A Chinese boy set out to learn all about it. He went to study with a talented old teacher.  The old gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth’s hand and told him to hold it tight.  Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it.  After an hour the teacher took back the stone and sent the boy home.  This procedure was repeated for weeks. Finally the boy became frustrated – when would he be told about the heavenly properties of jade?! – but he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher.  So he held the stone and listened. Again and again. Then one day, when the old man began their lesson by pressing a stone in the boy’s hand, the boy cried out instantly, “Hey wait! That’s not jade!”

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (italics added)

It seems out of place, that third sentence, “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him,” since John doesn’t speak again of Judas until later in the chapter, but it isn’t out of place, it’s the reason Jesus got up from the table.

He knew He was about to be betrayed, He knew human nature full well. Perhaps at that moment He remembered back to the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest, perhaps He remembered all the way back to when Adam and Eve disobeyed so they could be like God, perhaps He remembered even further back to when Satan wanted to be greater than God. He may have also looked ahead to all the ways evil men would infiltrate the church and exploit Him for selfish gain.

It was His awareness of our propensity to competition, our desire to be “better than” that got Him up from that table.   It’s what caused Him to take off his outer robe, tie a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin and press a precious stone into His disciples’ hands one more time.

So they would remember what He feels like.

You know the foot washing story and you know Peter. When Jesus got to his ten piggies, Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

In other words, “You’re too good to wash my feet!”

Jesus answered, “You don’t get it yet, but you will.”

Peter insisted, “You will never wash my feet.”

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

And so Peter, being Peter, said, “In that case, wash all of me!”

So Jesus laid it out for him. Again.

“One who has bathed does not need to wash.”

Wash and bathe in this passage are separate greek words.

“Wash” is nipto – to cleanse (especially the hands or the feet or the face); ceremonially.

It was customary back then – as it is now – to wash their hands before a meal.

“Bathe” is “louo,” it is a word used in the context of washing a dead person or cleaning blood from a wound.

Peter was already bathed as a dead person when he was baptized, when he was crucified with Christ and raised to new life.  He never needed to be bathed in that way again.  Just as a person doesn’t need to keep going forward at every altar call.  Once is enough.

All of the disciples had been bathed in the waters of baptism, except one. Scripture doesn’t tell us how and when Judas was called to follow Jesus, but it is telling us right here that he was never baptized, never raised to new life.  Even so,  Jesus loved each and every one of the 12 His Father had given Him.

“So Peter,” Jesus was saying, “zealous, enthusiastic Peter, you don’t need to be bathed, you only need to be washed.  Bathing is for souls, washing is for feet.  Feet that get dusty trodding through this sin-filled world.”

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our souls need to be bathed only once – through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – it’s our bodies and minds that need daily cleansing from the stink of sin.

After Jesus washed their feet, put back on his robe and returned to the table, He asked:

“Do you get it?

I just pressed something important into the palms of your hands.

I’m not too good to wash feet and neither are you.

Peter had it backwards. It’s not a matter of being too good, too high and mighty; it’s a matter of being good enough, of being low and mighty.

Servants are not greater than their master, so if I’m good enough to wash feet, then you be good enough, too.

Once you understand this concept, and do it, you will go through life blessed.

Isaiah said so, too: ‘take care of one another and then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;…

The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,’

Take care of one another and you will flourish.”

As someone who is chronically dehydrated and has osteoporosis, I like Isaiah’s wording – strong bones, well-watered….

Be low and mighty enough to serve others and you’ll like your life.

The lectionary for Maundy Thursday (you’re reading the homily I gave last night) skipped over the details of Judas’s departure, but you know how it went down. It picked up again at verse 31:

“When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'”

Judas’s departure set Jesus’ finest hour in motion.

His finest hour as a man – enduring physical and emotional abuse, bearing false accusations silently, as a sheep before its shearer.

I watched a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber Wednesday night.  At the end of it,  John Legend, who will play Jesus in Sunday night’s live presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, asked Andrew for advice on playing the role.

“It’s all about redemption after all,” Andrew replied.

John mentioned the angst and fear and doubt Jesus experienced as He faced the cross.

“And yet He went through with it,” Andrew replied.

“Yes,”  John smiled slightly, “He went through with it.”

He was glorified as the Son of Man by going through with it.  By laying down his life for his friends – there’s no love greater than that.

His finest hour as God was defeating sin and death, which no man can do.

His Father’s finest hour? Showing a restraint in the face of His Son’s suffering the strength of which no human father could match.

John didn’t mention the bread and the cup in his account of the Last Supper, but our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11 did.

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The Passover feast was a perpetual ordinance for God’s people to remember their deliverance from the physical bondage of slavery.

And now a new perpetual ordinance has been instituted, to remember our spiritual deliverance from bondage to sin and death.

My body broken for you. My blood shed for you, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb.

Our gospel reading ends with a precious plea:

Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

At my church the children come forward and crowd in the aisle between the rows of pews for “The Lamb’s Liturgy.” The pastor gives a brief lesson and then touches each of their heads and blesses them before they head off to Sunday school. It’s my favorite part of the service. I love to see them walk back down the aisle, their little heads blessed, their faces Hopeful, expectant that the future has good things for them.

The tenderness with which the pastor blesses our children is the tenderness with which Jesus beheld those at the table, on the eve of His great suffering:   “Little children, dear ones, my charges, my responsibility, my baby chicks, my friends…

I’m leaving and you can’t come with me.

So just love one another.

By this everyone will know that I taught you well, if you love one another.

By this my Father and I will be glorified.

By this our strength will be shown.

Because no one can live low and mighty apart from us.”

Amen.

#betrayed

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faith, the friends

Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

If you know anything about Dixie, you know that she was diagnosed with colon cancer in February.

If you don’t know anything about her, it’s time to catch up:

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

We’re Not Just Whistling Dixie

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

Big Love & Fruit that Lasts

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

When I last wrote about my friend, I was cooking like her life depended on it.

And wondering whether she would be incontinent forever.

But then the blessings began to flow on two creatures here below.

On a little beagle and me.

Dixie is now pooping like a champ – well, almost like a champ. And that is a huge blessing right there.

But there’s more.

Wednesday morning I took her for the 4th of 6 chemo treatments – each 3 weeks apart.  As per the protocol, her oncologist did an ultrasound and some chest x-rays prior to the treatment to make sure the treatments have been working.  If not, he’d switch to something else.

The ultrasound results?

There is no sign of recurrence in her bowels or lymph nodes – lymph nodes are all of normal size.

The doc said a radiologist would look at her chest x-rays to confirm but he saw nothing obvious on them.

So he proceeded with injection number four.

And then yesterday his assistant called with the radiologist’s findings:

Her lungs are completely clear!

Good food, exercise and chemo are keeping the cancer at bay.

And Love. Lots of Love.

Love is healing her.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

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Stopping to smell the roses after this morning’s happy walk.

She’ll get the final two injections and then she’ll be monitored from there.

Hopefully for many happy, healthy years to come…

#grateful #hopeful

 

 

 

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faith, love, the friends

Barely Breathing

Be’s ashes arrived about an hour ago.  The young man who delivered them to my front door was very kind. As soon as he left, I hugged the little wooden box to my heart and sobbed. I told Be all the things I’ve said to her many times since her diagnosis but also things I wished I had said yesterday.  I wished I had looked her in her bright little eyes and said that I was so sorry to have to say goodbye, that I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The emergency room ultrasound showed a lung had collapsed on one side and fluid was building in her chest cavity on the other side.  Eight days earlier another emergency doc had tapped 600 ml of fluid from her chest.  For six days we marveled at how well she was doing. But Monday she started showing signs that the fluid was building again.

But she never lost her appetite. Yesterday she jumped and twirled when I set down her breakfast bowl. She enthusiastically gobbled it down and then stood at the kitchen island watching me separate meat from bones to make broth.  She stood there as she did whenever I made her bone broth, confident that I would hand her a morsel or two.

I put the bones back into the crock pot, covered them with water, ground the meat and started to load the dishwasher.

That’s when she started panting. That’s when she came back into the kitchen to get me.  She often lead me into the family room to sit with her.  But this time she lead me to the door that leads to the garage. She just stood there as though she was asking to go to the hospital. I called the hub. I called emergency to let them know we were coming.  They were ready with oxygen when we arrived.

The doc said she could tap the fluid again but that it would probably fill up quicker this time – in 2 days rather than 8.  That’s typically the way it goes.

And before I could say anything, my husband said, “No, it’s time to let her go.”

And that made me cry.  And it made me a little deep down mad.

A tech brought Be into the examining room, catheter already in her arm, laid her gently on the table and plugged an oxygen tube into the wall in front of it. She said she’d give us a few minutes to say goodbye. Be’s breathing was labored, even holding oxygen to her nose, and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable one second longer than necessary. So we had the doc come in right away.

I wish I had taken just a moment though.

I wish I had turned her gently around or slid her a little back so I was in front of her – so she could see me – instead of being behind her.   I was right there hovering over her, stroking her head. My husband was behind me stroking her back. I wish I had been where she could see me.  I wish I had scooped her up and held her after she was gone. I wish I had driven her to the crematorium myself – one last labor of love.  So many regrets. It all happened so quickly.  I wish I had prayed when she was on the table and not just in the car on the way to emergency. I wish I had blessed her one last time, asked God into the room.  I wish I had asked to hold her on my lap while she was getting the injections…

She laid her head down on the table and was asleep before the doc finished pushing the propofol into the cath. Her breathing stopped midway through the injection of the second drug – the euthanasia drug. No twitching, no nothing, just asleep and then quietly gone in less than a minute.

So I hugged the box containing her ashes and sobbed and told her all those things and it was cathartic.  I’m still sobbing and it still hurts and it is pouring rain again.

It hurts so much I can barely breathe.

The turkey bone broth is still simmering in the crock pot, its heartbreaking aroma permeating the house.

Someday, when I step into heaven, Lucybee, the beloved friend I lost three years ago, will run full speed to greet me.  But the little Be will come quietly: she’ll tiptoe up, peek her head around the gate, look up at me with her sweet little face, cock her head and then wag, wag, wag her happy little tail.

Some glorious day.

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#someday

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

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Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

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Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

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faith, Jesus

We All Need Jesus.

“Do something uplifting today,” the hub said, as he smooched me and left for work.

“I am.” I pointed to the sweet video I was watching, posted by BJ of The River Walk.

He popped his head back through the door and said, “You don’t deserve this.”

“Aww, thank you honey.”

Those were the exact words my dad said, over the phone from Florida, after my first husband left me. And the hub knew it.

Vegetal words – planted 25 years ago by my beloved dad – blooming afresh this morning thanks to my thoughtful hub.

God took a beating on Facebook yesterday.

The depth of hate revealed – for God and for me – was quite troubling.

Vegetal hate, lying deep and dormant, springing up with a vengeance.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who encountered it.

I took the beagle for an uplifting walk in the sunshine and shook it off.

It’s not like God didn’t give full disclosure when I signed on:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Now I understand why love had to be commanded in the verse just prior:

“This is my command: Love each other.”

It’s not easy to love those who have a deep-seated hate for you. It’s especially hard when they have a deep-seated hate for God.

Last night, while we were feeding the friends, the hub summed up the reason for all the ugliness on display yesterday:

“It’s all they have.”

“Father Ken is a genius!,” I replied, as it dawned on me.

“What do you mean?,” asked the hub.

I meant the genius foresight in the prayers we’ve been praying every Sunday:

“Help us renounce dependence on our culture’s false securities; let us see them as idols in which we place our highest trust when you, Christ, are our only salvation – guns, the dollar, political parties and their leaders, stock markets, human intelligence, insurance policies, the possessions and provisions we hoard, our strong bodies, our touchscreen technologies.”

“Well, yeah,” said the hub.

It just hadn’t occurred to me that a political party is all some people have. I guess because we’ve been praying this in church – where people have God, too.

I was thinking about “us” as in those of us who were praying, not “us” as in society at large.

I can be dense.

After I walked the beagle I came across a few videos of President-elect Trump being prayed over at various churches while still a candidate. Here is one of them:

I didn’t know he had been prayed over, anointed for the task. That is quite heartening.

Excellent, in fact.

I was buoyant as I headed back outside to give the hound dog his turn.

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As we walked through the woods, I looked up and was reminded that Love always breaks through.

Which had me thinking: When no one hates us it’s only because we are not currently shining the Light into any dark places.

You can quote me on that.

Or you can quote Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

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