I have recently read Great Love: The Mary Jo Copeland Story; Copland is described as the Minnesota Mother Teresa. Mary Jo d founded several ministries including the Gift of Mary, a place for children and Sharing and Caring Hands for the homeless. All funds were raised through donations and not funded by any government agency. Mary Jo wanted to show each person who came in with needs that they were loved. One of the things she initiated was the washing the feet of street people. Many came with blisters or sores and infection on their feet. People had nowhere to wash their feet if they wanted to. As Mary Jo knelt to wash feet she listened, looked into the eyes of people, and provided one-on-one care. She loved people who may never have experienced love. Then Mary Jo bandaged feet, gave out clean socks and new shoes and prayed with the people she had just ministered to.
Have you ever had someone wash your feet? Have you ever washed the feet of someone other than your own children? In a meeting of spiritual leaders one member asked if I would allow her to wash my feet. Her purpose was to teach about the heart of the servant leader. It is a humbling experience for both the person washing feet and the one who washes the feet of another.
When Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples before his betrayal, he took a towel and began to wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus had taken the role of the servant with the lowest position in a household. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet; that was below the place of honor Peter would give his Lord. Jesus replies “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus continued to say that the disciples should was the feet of others. He asked them to follow the example.
Every day for as much as two hours each day, Mary Jo Copeland washed feet, expressed the love of the Lord and prayed with people otherwise considered unworthy. What is your equivalent of foot washing today? Is there a need for socks in the food bank/clothing centre in your town? Have you volunteered in a centre were meals are served to the homeless? How can you personally express love to needy people?
“Grass doesn’t grow on busy streets” is an expression that bald people like to use. In another expression, boredom may be described as being “as exciting as watching grass grow.” Jealousy may be expressed as seeing the grass greener on the other side of the fence.
Since spring arrived, grass cutting is a necessary part of caring for one’s home or yard. Cutting and raking grass can be time consuming and feels even more so in a year where there is a lot of rain. In the past, two young men from the Dominican Republic have visited us in Canada on different occasions and were fascinated by the grass. They were eager to cut the grass and even though they were warned not to cut grass in their bare feet, they continued saying but the grass is so soft. Grass is a luxury; back in the Dominican the yard is swept to pick up fallen leaves and dust abounds where we would normally find grass. If there is grass, it is rough and scratchy. So even if grass is a lot of work, it is a blessing
Grass is part of God’s creation and grass is used in the bible often as an image for life and death. Isaiah 40:8 states, “The grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God endures forever” The previous verse says surely the people are like grass and so people can wither and dry up. Isaiah states that the faithfulness of man can wither but the word of God lasts forever. When someone feels spiritually dry, the scripture can help us recover the joy of the Lord.
The apostle Paul quotes God saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:7” Paul was speaking about the thorn in his flesh and states he asked God on at least three occasions to remove the thorn. Paul explained to those reading his letter that he had learned to delight in weakness because it opened the door for God’s power to work through him.
Last week as I arrived to minister at the Residence (Nursing home), I wore a head covering over my bald head. It was evident that I am going through Chemotherapy. I have always experienced God’s grace when I speak for him. I remember Sunday mornings when I had laryngitis but when I rose to preach, God gave me a clear and strong voice. He was my strength.
The response last Sunday included a testimony of one woman who had suffered breast cancer, undergone both chemotherapy and radiation and because of an allergy to antibiotics had spent almost a year in isolation while undergoing her treatments. Paul was God’s chosen instrument to the gentiles: God indicated that Paul would suffer in ministry. At the moment that God spoke of this suffering, Paul was blind and days later Paul began to preach.
What does the woman at the service, myself as an instrument of God and Paul have in common. We are all called to minister. Cancer doesn’t stop us and a thorn in one’s side did not stop Paul. Paul was an example to many including Timothy who had problems with his stomach and was frequently ill (1 Timothy 5:23) Our example like Paul’s spurs others on, encourages and makes it possible for God’s strength to be demonstrated through our weakness.
As a child, I remember making Sunday afternoon visits to my maternal grandparents. Often we picked up my aunt and cousin and took them with us; Grandma and grandpa lived at Stonecrest Farm where grandpa did chores, milked cows and cared for the apples that grew on the farm. Their home was modest and set across the laneway from the large house of the owner of the farm. Grandma churned her own butter from the cream that came in after the milking. Then the butter was stored in the cold cellar. There was an icebox which held ice bought from the man in the black truck who came once a week selling ice.
Grandpa loved his grandchildren and my sister and I spend vacation time with them every summer. Grandpa had a habit which my husband and I have since adopted (We first practiced in the Dominican Republic.) – siesta. Every day after lunch, grandpa would stretch out on the couch for a half hour before going back out to work. One summer the year when grandma was recovering from a broken hip, my sister and I spent the whole summer with them helping out. Grandpa loved to tease and he told us often that God only made so many perfect heads and then he covered the rest with hair.
Grandpa demonstrated the importance of siesta. Now I am recalling his comments re bald heads. Chemotherapy caused me to have my head shaved this week. God had given me the opportunity to have one of those perfect heads without hair. My husband would say “hair today; gone tomorrow.” The nurse laughed and aid to him but hers will grow back again.
I Peter 3: 3, 4 tells us “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles … but rather it should be of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I thank God for memories of grandpa and perfect heads, for the opportunity to be seen with one of those perfect heads for several months and for the inner beauty He has given me so that I might please him.
At times I go on a reading binge probably for the same reason some people binge on a favourite food. I read because I enjoy reading. I read for pleasure – things like Karen Kingsbury novel or I read to study and expand my thinking. Recently several books have been found on the table by my chair, mostly of the study nature.
Caught Up Into Paradise by Richard Eby, is a true account of incidents in the author’s life. The story is rich in humor but richer in the re-counting of miracle after miracle. I was left with a question and an understanding that we today don’t see countless miracles because we neither expect them to happen nor ask God to perform them. Eby states that God waits until the last minute to reveal his answer so that we can learn through faith.
For Mother’s Day I received Ten Minutes in the Word, (a Zondervan publication) reflections on the Gospel of John. Questions like “How does Jesus hold things in your life together?” or “What are tangible ways that you can demonstrate your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ?” push us to a deeper relationship with Christ.
The book that touched me the most was written Nik Ripken entitled The Insanity of God, a True Story of Faith Resurrected. Ripken tells the story of God working in him and retells stories of many others, especially those in places where Christians are persecuted. It is through listening to their stories that Ripken grows from having a faith in Jesus crucified to Jesus resurrected. As he visited countries where Christians were persecuted, he had to ask himself: Is Jesus worth it? Is He worth your life? Is he worth the lives of your wife and your children? Repeatedly people responded, “Jesus is worth it.”
I recommend looking for this book reading and reflecting for people wanting to be involved in mission work and evangelism.
I date myself as I refer to a song made known by people like Elvis Presley, Anne Murry and Loretta Lyn. The song begins “Put you hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters.” and makes reference to putting one’s hand in Jesus’ hand. I wonder if this is a reference to Isaiah 42:6 where the Lord says I will take hold of your hand. The song asks the listener to put look at him or herself and be able to look at others differently.
The verse was the focus of a recent service in and nursing home and the message that we can put our hand and trust in Jesus’ hand. Everyone present took the hand of someone else and said words of encouragement to each other. Then we imagined how much more beautiful it would feel to have our hand in God’s hand.
At the end of the service one gentleman, shared that he was going to look differently at some members of his family and be reconciled to them. What a blessings to make a difference.
Jonah was a prophet, and a reluctant one at that. He was called to go and preach in Nineveh but instead ran away and got on a ship going in the opposite direction. When the storms came, he was sound asleep. He had been faced with a challenge, and did not know the details of what lay ahead. But things did not get better by turning away: the storms came, he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. He remained in the whale for three days. Jonah says to God, “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you. Jonah 2:7” When the whale spit Jonah out on dry land, he began the journey to Nineveh.
Sometimes facing the problem or knowing the problem right from the beginning is a much easier way. Jonah went to Nineveh but only after being in the whale for three days. Since the first CT scan I had indicated I had problems, one of the biggest difficulties was in not knowing what was next or what to expect. When chemotherapy started, what could I expect. Jonah was angry when the Ninevites were saved and he felt he had every right to be angry. Should I be angry?
In the book of Jonah, the first verse tells us God had a specific plan, go and preach. Jonah needed to face the problem from the beginning and trust in the God who was calling and sending him. When we face financial disaster, health crisis or whatever obstacles, we need to face the situation rather than let the problems get bigger. God has promised to be with us always.