Love on the move. Themes from Gospel of John

Bending down to wash and anoint someone’s feet. What story do our feet tell about us? How we live? How do we love? How do we touch the earth?

Indeed, what amazing gifts might must be ours if we could kneel and honor the humanity in another? I imagine we might just start to see the holy there as well. — Janet Hunt

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet
in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears (excerpt)
Mohja Kahf My grandmother puts her feet in the sink         of the bathroom at Sears to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer, wudu, because she has to pray in the store or miss the mandatory prayer time for Muslims She does it with great poise, balancing herself with one plump matronly arm against the automated hot-air hand dryer, after having removed her support knee-highs and laid them aside, folded in thirds, and given me her purse and her packages to hold so she can accomplish this august ritual and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom …
Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum …

On Feet: Walking and Washing

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves – we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny. — Mary Oliver 

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair … ― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. — Abraham Lincoln

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. — Saint Augustine

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. — Dr. Seuss

When food comes you open your mouth; when sleep comes you close your eyes. As you wash your face you find your nose, when you take off your shoes you feel your feet.  At that time, if you miss what’s being said, take a torch and make a special search deep in the night. How can you attain union?  — Joshu

The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless. — Billy Graham

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. — Stephen Hawking

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet. — Rumi

… Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking — walking not in order to arrive, just for walking. The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make. Therefore you have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. … We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind. … If we can transform our walking path into a field for meditation, our feet will take every step in full awareness. Our breathing will be in harmony with our steps, and our mind will naturally be at ease. Every step we take will reinforce our peace and joy and cause a stream of calm energy to flow through us. — Thich Nhat Hanh

From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed Him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters. The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following Him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labors. — Pope Francis

Extravagant Love: Washing and Anointing

… we don’t separate a self from its environment, and cleaning expresses our respect for and sense of wholeness with the world that surrounds us. Shoukei Matsumoto

A monk asked Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery: please give me some guidance.”  Joshu said, “Have you had breakfast yet?”
The monk said, “Yes I have eaten.”  Joshu continues, “Then go wash your bowl.”
— Joshu, Buddhist Koan

In this text, Mary continues the theme of extravagance in the form of costly gestures involving expensive ointment. … Now is no time for frugality. This extravagance on earth is participating with the work of heaven. — Lynn Miller

Do you see this person that you are judging?  Do you see her humanity, her profound child of God-ness, her generosity, her capacity for compassion?   — Joy Perkett

Sounds like a horrible idea to me, trying to get ​closer​ to God. Half the time, I wish God would leave me alone. Getting closer to God might mean getting told to love someone I don’t even like, or give away even more of my money.It might mean letting some idea or dream that is dear to me get ripped away. — Nadia Bolz­-Weber

So Mary might have given Jesus this stunning gift of extravagance as a thank-you or as a prophetic witness as to what would soon be. Perhaps her motivation was a mixture of both. But what if another reason Mary poured it all out that day was simply because she knew deep down that her gift would make a holy difference to Jesus. Her gift, her generous offering, could remind him who he was and how much he was loved. — Shannon J. Kershner

What amazing and wonderful thing can she do, what can she say not with words but with her whole self: Mary takes the best she has to give and in an hour of need, as death looms over this little band of disciples, Mary takes the best and breaks it open over the feet of Jesus, the one she loves, the one she is about to lose…even if only for awhile…but we suspect she does not know that, yet. — Kathryn Matthews Then again, we might ask whom God might work through next. And if you ask that question, then invite your people to look at those sitting near them. For God may be about to use each of them in a surprising way to care for their neighbor, to offer a listening ear, to do their work with faithfulness and courage, to stand up for those who are less fortunate, to resist peer pressure at school and offer an alternative to those watching. Who knows? What we do know is that God is regularly about the business of surprising us with where God shows up, whom God uses, and what God accomplishes. — David Lose

Mary’s extravagant love for Jesus makes it possible for Jesus to show extravagant love in what follows — washing the feet of his disciples, handing himself over to be arrested in the garden, carrying his own cross, dying, rising, and ascending. Mary loves Jesus into his future as the fulfillment of, “for God so loved the world.” — Karoline Lewis

Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not a commandment to feel affection, but a commandment to act in a loving way, even when we would rather do otherwise. — Elisabeth Johnson

Remembering her may help them leave him alone while he finishes delivering his message. At home in Bethany, the storm clouds are still piling up against the door when Mary gives the forecast: it will be bad, very bad, but that’s no reason for Jesus’ friends to lock their hearts and head to the cellar.  Whatever they need, there will be enough to go around.  Whatever they spend, there will be plenty left over.  There is no reason to fear running out–of nard or of life either one–for where God is concerned, there is always more than we can ask or imagine–gifts from our lavish, lavish Lord. — Barbara Brown Taylor


Reflections on songs & singing

Poem ― Charlotte Eriksson
… so this is for us.
This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love
and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know
because the beauty is in the act of doing it.
Not what it can lead to.
This is for the times I lose myself while writing, singing, playing
and no one is around and they will never know
but I will forever remember
and that shines brighter than any praise or fame or glory I will ever have,
and this is for you who write or play or read or sing
by yourself with the light off and door closed
when the world is asleep and the stars are aligned
and maybe no one will ever hear it
or read your words
or know your thoughts
but it doesn’t make it less glorious.
It makes it ethereal. Mysterious.
Infinite.
For it belongs to you and whatever God or spirit you believe in
and only you can decide how much it meant
and means
and will forever mean
and other people will experience it too
through you.
Through your spirit. Through the way you talk.
Through the way you walk and love and laugh and care
and I never meant to write this long
but what I want to say is:
Don’t try to present your art by making other people read or hear or see or touch it; make them feel it. Wear your art like your heart on your sleeve and keep it alive by making people feel a little better. Feel a little lighter. Create art in order for yourself to become yourself
and let your very existence be your song, your poem, your story.
Let your very identity be your book.
Let the way people say your name sound like the sweetest melody.

So go create. Take photographs in the wood, run alone in the rain and sing your heart out high up on a mountain
where no one will ever hear
and your very existence will be the most hypnotising scar.
Make your life be your art
and you will never be forgotten.

Continue reading “Reflections on songs & singing”

Themes from Matthew 25 about giving and receiving: doing unto others (and Thanksgiving)

Contemplating Thanksgiving— receiving and giving support — as themes from Matthew 25 about separating goats from sheep and “doing unto others.” When do you need to hold out your hands and open your arms and accept the grace available to you, and when may you be a tangible source of grace for others?

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. — St Augustine

Pie with Spirits Mary Wellemeyer
This is the very pumpkin pie
my grandmother made—almost.
She was a modern woman
who knew how to follow recipes.
Receipts, she called them,
 because they had been received.
She had a rule for pie crust that was constant
until, from time to time, it changed.
I have that rule, in turn, and it has moved on,
just a bit, from where she left it.
This is my special shared moment
with her, departed a quarter century.
As I work, I am all ages of myself,
and the thought of my tall son comes to join us,
though he hardly knew her.
He makes pies with wild abandon,
sculpting them from material and artistry.
He has received pie somehow at the level of soul.
The three of us make pie together,
preheating the oven,
cutting butter into flour, adding water,
flouring a board, rolling the crust.
To honor her, I follow the recipe.
To honor him, I change just one thing.
To honor myself, I take my time and smile.

Receiving Help: Accepting Grace

None of us got where we are alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying thank you. — Harvey Mackay

Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here, because even Thugs cry, but do the Lord care? — Tupac Shakur

You can’t change the world alone — you will need someone’s help — and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them. — William McRaven

“You should ask for help,” he said. “I don’t know how to do that, either.”
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. — C.S. Lewis, character Aslan speaking in The Last Battle

Being first to ask for help in a friendship takes courage and humility. ― Afton Rorvik, Storm Sisters: Friends Though All Seasons

… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. — Matthew 25

Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving … ― Alexander McCall Smith

A lot of the time we don’t know when we’re surrendering that we’re actually, at the same time, maybe establishing connection … to a power greater than ourselves — or something in the next concentric circle out whose name is not me. So, that to me is where help begins. You know, we’re often ashamed of asking for so much help because it seems selfish or petty or narcissistic, but I think, if there’s a God — and I believe there is — that God is there to help. That’s what God’s job is. — Anne Lamott

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. — John Donne

Inter-being: Tiếp Hiện (接現) is a Sino-Vietnamese term. Tiếp means “being in touch with” and “continuing.” Hiện means “realizing” and “making it here and now.” The translation “Interbeing” (French: Interêtre) is a word coined by Thich Nhat Hanh to represent … Buddhist principles … to describe the essential interconnectedness of the universe … If we look deeply into the nature of our universe we can see all things as profoundly interdependent.

… Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. — Society of Interbeing, Thich Nhat Hanh

Offering Support:
Small Acts of Grace

Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.) ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. — Charles Dickens

The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served. ― Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something

No one has ever become poor by giving. ― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank: the play

Frankly I’m not religious, but I believe in the cause of humanity — doing good work. — Sukhwinder Singh

It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely. ― Leo F. Buscaglia

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. — Dalai Lama XIV

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. — Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful then a thousand heads bowing in prayer. — Mahatma Gandhi

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Little GoatKatie Ford
God is not light upon light, no more
than goat is need upon need
although there, where it grazes, it is sun upon coat
within which ticks and stray-blown feed burrow
into the pocked skin of such foul scent
covering the underflesh heart that could eat
this farmer’s grain or the barren mountain’s bark
high in the solitude of sheer animal peace
laid over sheer animal terror.
We ask the animal afflicted by its time,
its impoverished American meadow
that drove it to find birch from which to strip its easy feed
to abide with us.
It does not need us. We think it needs us.

We must forgive God God’s story.

The Black-Faced Sheep (excerpt) — Donald Hall
Ruminant pillows! Gregarious soft boulders!
If one of you found a gap in a stone wall,
the rest of you—rams, ewes, bucks, wethers, lambs;
mothers and daughters, old grandfather-father,
cousins and aunts, small bleating sons—
followed onward, stupid
as sheep, wherever
your leader’s sheep-brain wandered to …
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