I do not wear shoes when I preach.
It started out as a theological statement: that in worship we come into God’s presence, just as Moses did at the burning bush. And in recognizing this space as holy ground, we (like Moses) remove our shoes.
But removing my shoes is not an empty theological gesture that has no consequences. On the contrary! Every week, I remove my shoes and allow my feet to be visible to all who would examine them. (And my feet are not traditionally something I am excited to show off.)
Moses removed his shoes … and then, in his encounter with God, went on to demonstrate both his best and his worst natures. So, too, do I find that God’s call utilizes my best gifts, while challenging me in those areas where I need the most improvement.
In an act that is both freeing … and slightly unsettling … I remove my shoes each week and allow the less-than-polished parts to be visible. Barefootedness is no longer just a theological signpost; it has become a continual reminder and my weekly, intentional consent to allow my vulnerabilities to be apparent, rather than hiding behind a polished facade.
This week, I am thinking of Shoeless Mo (Exodus 3) and I am particularly cognizant of the unusual places in our lives that God is at work. And I am oh-so-thankful at the opportunity to remove my shoes and come into God’s presence.
I’ve noticed that most folks from Harrisburg are using social media to post pictures of the tornado damage. The images that have really moved me in the last 24 hours, though, aren’t pictures of destruction. They’re pictures of compassion …
Life Church in Marion: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”
Alltel is charging phones for those without access to power.
And lots of folks – volunteers and professionals – who just want to help.
(I don’t even know where Lemont is! How nice that they would come, though!)
As seen at locations all over town: stockpiles of water and supplies that are being donated.
‘Tis the season to tap maple trees and invite them to share some of their delicious bounty.
Unusual winter weather does not seem to have affected the harvest; I taste-tested some of this year’s “crop” this morning at the Maple Festival at Touch of Nature (on Little Grassy Lake, south of Carbondale) and it was more than satisfactory.
To be honest, I almost didn’t go to the festival. Ash Wednesday, my first full week in a new church community, a lot of planning for Lent, a broken clothes dryer, and dogs with upset stomachs … it has been a very long week.
But at 7:45 this morning, I got the text from wonderful friends with whom I was anxious to spend time … so despite the urge to take a cup of tea and my journal and curl up somewhere quiet, I loaded up the dogs and headed for the woods.
The dogs burned some energy at Giant City State Park prior to our visit to the festival, and their mania at the sun and the smells and the water and the woods made me laugh. After they had worn themselves down, I let them nap in a warm and sunny car while I ate pancakes and sausage with local maple syrup and then learned the ins and outs of tapping trees.
I was sure that my greatest need today was to putter gently around my house, rather than spend one more day this week driving around Southern Illinois. But it turns out that I was wrong.
Laughing with friends, learning something new, and bringing pleasure to the critters whose care is entrusted to me was what my spirit needed most. As it happens, I only discovered that truth in the doing of those things.
In honor of the season, here are a couple of photos:
The interview was with Vigen Guroian, who writes on the connection between gardening and the Christian faith (specifically, the Eastern Orthodox tradition). In the part of the interview that I heard, he suggested that the events of Easter redeem our senses.
I’ve been dodging rain for two weeks, trying to plant blueberry bushes and apple trees and roses and holly and tomatoes and corn and carrots. And in the last few days, while digging and mowing and pruning, I’ve been wondering how Easter redeems my senses.
I wonder about those disciples who went to the tomb, who saw messengers whose clothes and faces shone like the sun. After seeing such a light, were they somewhat blinded to the rest of the world for a time?
After a camera flash, I see spots. When suddenly turning on a light after I’ve been in the dark (or asleep) I am temporarily unable to see.
So, in the light of the news of resurrection, did they leave the tomb with one hand out in front of them, so that they didn’t run into trees and bushes that they couldn’t see?
Or, (unlike camera flashes) does the light of resurrection give such light as to improve our vision rather than diminish it? Am I better able to see the seeds, smell the grass and experience the texture of the petals because of the Good News of Easter?
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, icons are an integral part of the worship experience. These icons are extraordinarily beautiful images of the foremothers and forefathers of the faith, Biblical scenes, or representations of the saints.
The word icon means window. In the Orthodox tradition, it is believed that these visual representations open a window into a deeper understanding of the faith.
Perhaps that is the way in which I experience my senses to be redeemed. Instead of seeing my garden better, I am able to see my garden as an icon, a window: a window through which I am more able to see the fingerprints of God.
When I first bought my house (which is a fixer-upper), someone told me the golden rule of hiring remodeling help:
There are only three criteria that count for any kind of service professionals (or amateurs, for that matter): good, fast, and cheap. You will never find anyone who meets all three categories. The best you can hope for is 2 out of 3. Which two, is up to you.
That has, so far, proven true.
The electricians were wonderful to work with, did quality work and were reasonably priced.
The roofers were very quick at their work … but my roof is still leaking.
I recently organized a Lenten study on food ethics for the congregation I serve. As part of my research, I listened to a lecture by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) who pointed out that the selling point of the fast food industry is that they are fast, cheap and easy.
I occurs to me, in both cases, that fast and cheap are thought to be desirable characteristics in everything from hamburgers to handymen.
I don’t have more hours in the day than anyone else, and I have less money at my disposal than many … and so I am often seduced by the wiles of the quick and inexpensive.
But this is the season that challenges us to consider that, perhaps, we were not made to embrace the easiest, fastest or least expensive. We were made for so much more.
The staggering beauty of trees in bloom, the grandeur of fields of purple, the lushness of soft, moist grass, the majesty and ferocity of thunderstorms … nature in springtime forces us to concede that God does not settle for quick and cheap.
I suspect that God doesn’t expects us to settle for that either. What if, instead of fast and cheap, we sought to surround ourselves with things of another quality:
My grandfather (who passed away before I was born and, of whom, I only know the legends of family) was famous for often saying: “It only costs a dollar more to go first class.”
Spring (and, of course, Easter) challenge us to a “first class” way of thinking, challenging us to embrace what is Beautiful, Interesting, Rare, Mysterious, Delicious, Melodic, Abundant, Important.
This Easter, may the risen Christ transform our lives … and our choices.
In a phone call yesterday, a friend shared some exciting news: he has decided to keep chickens.
His suggestion – since he knows of my excitement about the garden I am planting this year – was to suggest trading some of the eggs from his chickens for some of my tomatoes.
(I’m flattered by his confidence in my ability to actually keep a tomato plant alive long enough for it to produce a tomato!)
My response was: “This is country living at its best!”
As I give the matter more thought, though, I am forced to retract that statement.
This desire to trade isn’t a trait born or developed only by folks who inhabit rural areas. I’m convinced that it’s a trait that is born in each of us.
Don’t believe me? Sit down at lunch with some elementary-age students and watch the mealtime bartering.
Need more proof? Check out a flea market sometime.
Human beings seem to have an innate need to pass on the things they no longer want or need, or the things which they have in abundance.
The great number of flea markets, estate sales, food swaps, thrift stores and consignment shops around the country seem to indicate that, in addition to the need to pass on, we also have inherited a willingness to receive those items that have been offered.
I suspect this is our survival instinct showing itself. Somewhere deep inside us, our cells remember (even if our conscious minds do not) that we were made to live symbiotically.
In modern America (although, probably not limited to here), it seems that too often, symbiosis is disdained in favor of individualism, living simply and interdependently is dismissed in favor of hoarding and stockpiling, and talking heads seem to suggest that the attempt to live more cooperatively is somehow insidious, that it somehow undermines the “American spirit”.
But those attitudes cannot negate the fact that, whether we accept it or not, we live in a web of connectedness. Embracing that web leads to richer fuller lives for all of us, while attempting to disengage from the web diminishes our common life.
But it’s not easy. Living in such a way requires that we live honestly, offering up both our gifts and our needs to the larger community.
Sometimes, I’m not sure which is more difficult: claiming the knowledge of our own gifts so that we might offer them up without hesitation, or admitting to our need or weakness, so that others might have the opportunity to support and sustain us.
Either offering requires courage. And there are days that I just don’t have it.
But I think I can at least start with a tomato.
Here’s a clip I discovered in my research for our food ethics series.