We Wash Feet

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Archive for the category “Christian Service”

The Fast God Chooses

I started 2017 with worship as my word of the year.  While others were choosing balance, intentional, trust, focus, and other words worthy of this one word honor, I chose Worship.  It’s not that that was a bad choice.  It’s just something I truly felt I had a handle on.  I understood.

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You see I love to worship.  I can’t wait to get to church on Sunday mornings and abandon the week’s weights and enter into His presence, thanking Him for the grace He’s afforded to me.  Worship music is my favorite genre. It’s what you will hear if you are in my home or minivan. It’s the songs I sing in the shower.  So to choose worship as the word for 2017 really didn’t make sense to me.  What can I learn about worship? What does He want to teach me about worship?

I wrote the word in big bold lettering in the center of the first page of my new green bullet journal, and then began filling in the things I knew about worship. Prayerfully I considered what I should do with this word: Worship.

My prayer went something like this:

I’m pretty sure you whispered Worship to me, so what do You want me to do with this word?  When you said Community, I started spaghetti nights. When you said hospitality, I readied my guest room and opened my home to friends and family. You know I’m kind of a concrete thinker here, Lord.  Are you wanting me to get out of my pew? Is this a leadership word, just lead the way into worship? Should I join the choir?

I didn’t join the choir or leave my seat on the pew to be front and center, but I dare say, this already has become one of the most personal and intimate journeys of my lifetime.  In continuing to pray for His direction and guidance, wanting a deeper understanding of worship I find myself in depths new to my spiritual walk.

Worship has always been something I enjoy.  It’s fun to clap, raise my hands, feel that emotional high.  It’s therapeutic. When the tears flow, I release the cares and worries of my week with abandonment.  And of course, worship is how we thank God for His blessings and presence in our life.  There’s no better place to be than in worship. Give me the old hymns of generations before me, the modern day choruses that simply repeat a single word or anything in between.  I am a worshiper!  created_to_worship_graphicYes I know that worship is so much more than the choruses we sing on Sunday. But most recently I’ve come to know worship as prayer in its most intimate form. Prayer that connects my heart and soul to my heavenly Father and His heart to mine. True worship changes what we see, what we feel, what we desire, it changes everything.  It’s a life lived with gratitude to Him who gives us life. It’s shown through all we do and say. It’s allowing the Holy Spirit to live in you and through you.  Every second of everyday, to live and breathe Him, the only one worthy of our worship.

Today I chose a chapter in Stormie OMartian’s book The Prayer That Changes Everything.  (Imagine that, I’m reading a book on Worship!) This chapter was specifically on praising Him when you are sick, weak or injured.  We read and prayed through scriptures devoted to healing. We worshiped the God who heals because that is who He is. It was a good devotion time with my pencil barely able to keep up with my thoughts. (Yes, I still journal on paper!) Then the question in the study portion took us to Isaiah 58 and ask us what will happen when we observe the fast God has chosen.

First this chapter is on fasting. We just finished a 21 day fast as a church family. Participating in this fast is what brought me to the word Worship in the first place. Then through my prayer group I read in Chronicles about how King Jehoshaphat called a fast for the entire land in the face of serious defeat. Their fast brought them to worship!

So here I am back at a fast while studying worship, reading about a true fast. One that, if I allow it, can alter the very core of me.  Not a fast because my church has called one, or because I need to lose weight, or because I want to “please myself.” But an honest evaluation of heart, motives, attitudes, and actions. The type of fast that moves me past me. God’s Word calls it a True Fast.

In the beginning of Isaiah 58 God reveals that His people are walking through the motions of religion. When he doesn’t respond favorably, they ask Him the infamous “why?”, as if He can’t see their heart, He can see right through them. They make their list of all the “I’ve done this and I’ve done that” items and approach Him with attitude. I know how I react when my kids approach me with an attitude, an attitude that reeks.

“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? NLT

Wow! I can relate. It’s hard to admit but I’ve ask the “whys”, I’ve spewed my list of been there’s and done that’s, I’ve reminded God of what’s fair, and I have showed plenty of “attitude.” This could be the reason the Bible refers to us as Children! Thankfully, God is Father. A good father who has good things for His children. He called them out on the attitude and the motive behind their actions! He let them know that what they are doing is all on the outside.  What about the inside? He values relationship! He values our relationship with Him! He will call you out when your motive is self-serving. God wants every part of you, to be your one and only true love, and when given His proper place in our lives He works miracles on the outside and the inside!

Just as you would expect a good Father to do, He doesn’t leave them without direction.  Starting in verse 6 he explains his True Fast and its result:

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.  Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” NLT

What will happen when you embrace His true fast? When you give all of yourself? When you give Him your devotion and worship? When your heart’s desire is for Him, to know Him and make Him known? It’s in this posture of worship, surrendered to His will and His way – it changes us. His fast places our focus firmly on Him. With our eyes on him, He illuminates everything in His presence. And guess what? He inhabits the praises of His people. When we are in His presence darkness scatters. Light has that property.  He is The Light of the World.  When we offer Him all we have, all we are, all we hope. When we put our words into actions.  When we feed the hungry and help those in trouble He promises water when you are dry, strength when you are weak. He says you will be like a well-watered garden, an ever-flowing spring – fruitful, full of His Spirit, so full that He spills out onto everyone around you.  footwashing2

 

 

 

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Serving Others at Breakfast

For weeks the women’s ministry team has been meeting and preparing to host our annual local church ladies for a special Christmas breakfast.  This year we decided to cater it instead of meeting together in a nearby restaurant.   Our women’s ministry director chose the theme, The Best Gift, and then began to work on our program.  I began to recruit the twenty ladies necessary to hostess the tables.

As ladies agreed to hostess a table, they received a complimentary ticket and a letter explaining the details.  This kept everyone on the same page. The letter simply said thank you and listed what their responsibilities and my responsibilities would be.

Round tables with traditional white tablecloths were placed around the room.  Each table hostess brought her dishes, glass and flatware, a centerpiece, and most often a small gift for ladies who sit around her table. Lots of details went into making this morning a successful respite from the busyness of the holidays.

Didn’t the hard work of our hostesses pay off?

DSC_0188For this centerpiece, beautiful prancing reindeer danced around a silver cylinder candle holder and red tulle netting gave it an extra punch of color. These lovely sisters used dishes passed down from their mother with red chargers under each plate to accent the centerpiece.  A Christmas bookmark and chocolates awaited each of their table guests.

DSC_0218This beautiful table decorated by my friend and beautician showed creativity worth noticing – scattered snowflakes, embellished blue ornaments surrounding a cobalt blue pitcher for the centerpiece, blue bandannas for napkins,  and silver makeup bags with beauty samples placed on each plate.

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This table’s snowman stood beside Christmas cones of bright red, green and candy stripes. The beautiful Christmas China was accented by chargers in red, green and gold. This hostess placed a candy filled plush snowman on each chair.

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This experienced hostess must throw amazing dinner parties as her table setting was elegant and sophisticated.  Beautiful fine china circled around a Santa tea pot and a Christmas home with a tiny train of sleighs that moved around the scene.  Napkin rings held paper napkins, a small notebook propped against the stemware and Andes mints sat in the saucer.  Elegance was an understatement.

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 

This Hostess and her daughter (kindergarten age) set this table together.  I stood back  watching mother instruct daughter on how and where to place each piece.  It was quite moving for this mother of all boys.  The centerpiece was unique and so very creative.  The antlers were adorned with battery operated Christmas lights.  I wish I had gotten a picture of it lit up but you will have to imagine that.

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One of Our Mother Daughter Duos

This table can only be described as cozy and warm.  I wanted to just pull up to it and start chatting.  Our hostess used two table runners and criss-crossed them. I will definitely use this idea in the future.  This centerpiece stayed tall and thin as to not block conversation between guests.  The top hat flanked one side of the tall vase and a snowman on the other.  The vase, topped with a huge white snowflake and red Christmas balls was wrapped in silver fabric making this tablescape spectacular.  Each guest felt welcomed as she sat before her plate and cup.  Did you notice the packaged cocoa stick snowman peeking over the rim? So adorable.  Every plate held red tipped flatware wrapped in a white napkin and tied with a pretty red and white checkered bow!

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Another one of our Mother Daughter Duos – We are blessed! 

This table used a green runner underneath red taper candles, a small decorated Christmas tree and an adorable snowman.  The snowman dishes held a Christmas jingle bell necklace for each guest.  We have some very creative ladies at our church!

This was just a sampling of the beautifully decorated tables from this morning. Every table was just as unique and special as the ladies who decorated them.  Some of these tables told stories of rich heritage, others were whimsical and festive but all were gifts of time and love for the ladies they would host.  This added such a personal touch to our morning and I am beyond grateful for their assistance.

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The buffet tables were clad with red cloth runners across the middle and laden with individual sized quiches, sausage cream cheese stuffed croissants, yogurt and fruit parfaits, and miniature pancakes with butter and syrup.  Talk about delicious.  I want the recipes!

Throughout the morning, everyone sang Christmas carols, ate their fill, listened to the guest speakers, and gave generously to the missionary family we chose to bless.   We were blessed.  I felt accomplished and ready to put my feet up and relax after a long morning of work.  My heart is full.  I love my sisters.  I love our church.

 

SERVE FOOD DISTRIBUTION DAY 

Today, I pulled on my turquoise volunteer t-shirt, drove my nephew over to catch a ride to church camp, and headed on into the gym to meet up with the other volunteers who would be helping to distribute groceries to anyone and everyone who arrives.  

Both the truck and a van were loaded down to the max with this week’s selections, donated by our local super markets. Over 2000 pounds of food weighed in, bar codes marked through, and placed on tables.  Volunteers Of all ages worked quickly to be ready for clients by noon. 

 

People with boxes in hand began to arrive almost as quickly as we began to ready the tables.  Chairs were set out for people waiting. Breakfast was served.   Numbered tickets were distributed. The gospel’s salvation message was presented. People began to file around the tables choosing what will fill their box. The need is always great and we were are all too happy to distribute. 

This is just one avenue to help meet the needs in our community. Food distributions are the first, third and sometimes fifth Saturdays of each month, beginning at 12:00. Anyone can come that needs help. Everyone is welcome. 

Transition Furniture 

 
Within our community, we have heroes. One such hero is Daniel Murch. I met Daniel in 2011, while working with the Salvation Army, during recovery efforts after five devastating tornados flattened neighborhoods within our community. Our entire county rallied together. Daniel, a young college student at the time, managed the clean up efforts and organizing volunteers to remove the massive amounts of debri.  It was quite evident to everyone, Daniel was and is a keeper! Single girls, sit up and pay attention.  We are talking husband material here.  

Even after the warehouse was emptied and life seemed to return to normal, Daniel continued to help. I watched him making a difference in the lives of others, working in our poorer neighborhoods, influencing, leading youth and adults alike to step up and do something to help others. Before long,  Transition Furniture was born. 

Their mission statement:

What… Transition Furniture is committed to helping people & families who have had great loss in a house fire, natural disasters, or are moving into housing out of homelessness.


Why… tragedy is often unavoidable and rarely is anyone prepared. Furniture and belongings seem irreplaceable and many do not know where to turn or who to turn to. We exist to assist those who experience these tragedies and who have no direct path for restoration. We help them transition. 

And help he has. Through referrals from partnering agencies, countless families have received assistance. Some of their stories are featured on their website transitionfurniture.org.  This is an organization worthy of support and worth watching! Transition continues rallying the community together to help those who need support using social media and their website. This is love in action!  

Most recently Transition Furniture became aware of kids in our community who were sleeping on floors. They sprung into action and before long 30 beds, mattresses, box springs and frames had been donated for their campaign. 

 Using social media, transition requested donations for bedding to accompany each new bed. Various families donated financially through an online account and/or delivered bedding sets they purchased to the drop off locations at either of the two designated drop off locations.  

Our community has wonderful opportunities to “wash feet.”  Transition Furniture’s Floor No More campaign became the focus for our family’s monthly simple service project in May. It was a lot of fun to shop for comforter sets and deliver them to the school.  Participants could also sign up to volunteer their trucks and their time to help deliver them to the families, and    from the pictures below it was a successful delivery day! 

       

Transition Furniture is making an impact in our county. They are making a difference.  It is exciting to watch where Transition Furniture is headed. You can like them on Facebook, follow their blog, and get involved with the work they are doing. Consider donating your gently used furniture, appliances, and general household items to Transition Furniture. You can contact them to see what they are accepting as their space is limited.  Currently they store donations at our local United Way offices but plan to one day move into their own space.  Pray for this work and the families they are impacting, and if you know of someone with an empty warehouse that they would be willing to offer to Transition send them Daniel’s way. 

 Simple Service Together

One goal for 2015: 

Invite like minded friends to connect together and form a group to serve together, work together, common change style. Choose 6-12 projects that will serve our community. These can be in partnership with community services groups that share like values, volunteer opportunities, etc… Or can be new projects that will serve our community.

Goals and resolutions often look better on paper. Life becomes so busy and this happens and that happens and before you blink you’re rewriting your resolutions for the next year.  

There is so much we can do to by choosing 6-12 projects that we will complete as a team.  These projects may include working in partnership with community service groups that share like values or may be new projects that help the causes we are passionate about as a group. Sometimes it may involve volunteering for a workday and sometimes it might mean everyone chipping in together to cover a monetary need of someone we know.  To get the ball rolling, my friend Teresa and I met for lunch on Saturday to decide on our first project.

We chose a simple Easter project to bless a few kids and their moms. Our first “Hearts to Serve” project: making Easter baskets for the children who live in our battered women’s shelter and a small personal basket for each of the moms.  We were able to speak with the director at our local Family Resource Agency and get their approval. Then we began collecting our supplies. 

We prepared 6 baskets for the children and 4 baskets for the moms. For the children’s baskets we wanted to include some necessities as well as some Easter candy and stay within a simple budget of $100.00 We talked about the things that should go in the baskets and made our shopping lists.  We would like every bucket to have:

  • chocolate bunny, peeps, and jelly beans
  • stuffed lamb, bunny, or chick
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and shower gel 
  • water bottle
  • band-aids, bug bite itch stick, and sunscreen
  • sidewalk chalk and bubbles
  • Frisbee, jump rope or ball for outside
  • card or dice game
  • stickers, coloring book, crayons
  • bath toys: rubber duckie, squirters, cup
  • small cars or miniature dolls 

   
Didn’t they turn out adorable? 

The director of Family Resource Agency and one of the shelter’s employees met us to pick them up. They delivered them to the moms for us along with a miniature basket for each mom as well. I didn’t get pictures of the mom baskets but they were mini versions of these with pampering products instead of toys!  Sooo cute! This will definitely be a repeat project! 

Kid Size Guests

As I tuck the covers up around my seven year old son, hugging him good night, I pray for the children that do not have a mother to tuck them in at night. There are too many, in fact according to World Hope Organization 1 in 13 kids in developing countries are orphans.

Last night the World Hope International Children’s Choir performed at church. It was energetic and such a blessing to hear and see these kids sing and dance as part of the Rescue Tour. They talked of the babies they were rescuing on the brink of death from starvation and contaminated water. Heart wrenching stories, but hope shown bright in the eyes of everyone of those energetic worshipers on stage.

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Bikash and Ramzel from Nepal and Philippines came home with us. They fit right in and made themselves at home. Although I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures, Tim had a blast playing with his new friends. We all ate pizza, played with toys, got ready for bed and said our prayers. Silently I prayed over each of my visitors and for their families back home.

So since last night our names have fondly been “Auntie and Uncle.” We have made the favorite American foods of these 8 and 9 year old boys: Chicken Fingers, french fries, bacon, boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, and spaghetti. Not necessarily in that order but an interesting combination none the less.

There were some rules we had to follow. Rules that did our family good. The children were not allowed candy or gum. had strict bedtimes (9pm), were not suppose to play with any type of weapon and no electronics. A G-rated Movie was acceptable though. So on this Monday, we stayed home from school, we played outside and inside. We took breaks to eat. We played ball and rode bikes with helmets. We laughed and giggled. This mom learned that boys from America and boys from Nepal and boys from the Philippines are basically all the same. They play hard, act rough and tough, and still need to hugged.

This opportunity was rich in learning and was well worth missing a day of school. We will miss our new friends.

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Christmas Angels

Sometime in September, while most of us are settling into school routines, our communities finest volunteers begin discussing Christmas gifts for the less fortunate kids in our county. A city the size of Cleveland, population of 42,774 (2013 US Census Bureau) has several programs including The Salvation Army, The Refuge, Faith Memorial Church, The Local Police Department, Christmas Memories, Cleveland Middle School, Toys for Tots,

The Refuge Center’s Christmas Extravaganza, various local churches, and The Children’s Christmas Party will all share in the blessing of giving. Hundreds of kids and or their parents will show up at one of these and receive gifts. Close to a thousand kids will meet up at Kmart and shop with a volunteer to purchase themselves toys, clothes, shoes or whatever they feel they need. The Salvation Army Warehouse will be lined with boxes to fill. As people purchase the wishlist of the children they adopt for the holidays the boxes will begin to overflow.

It’s Christmas time again and for the fifth year in a row I am totally overwhelmed by the way my community has stepped up for those less fortunate living around them. It’s easy to get involved!

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The Salvation Army Angel Tree Warehouse 2014

Cleveland’s Christmas Memories 

Cleveland is blessed with multiple Christmas assistance programs. I’m most familiar with Angel Tree, through The Salvation Army but Christmas Memories, sponsored by Brenda Lawson, is a favorite of kids and volunteers around town.   

Children are identified through our public school system, given an application to fill out, and upon acceptance are awarded a $100.00 shopping spree at our local Kmart. 

I volunteered to work as a shopper for this years shopping finale. I was instructed to arrive at 10:30 and other volunteers assigned me to a young lady. With my calculator at hand, I pushed a cart in and out of the throngs of shoppers as my child filled our buggy with various sundries, toys and clothing. It was so much fun, until we had to join the longest check-out line in the history of shopping! Every register was opened and every line stretched to the back of the store. Ugg four hours later we made it to the register. So in the end I stood an hour in line waiting to be paired up, an hour shopping, and four hours waiting to check out with a hungry child I barely knew. Next time I will have snacks in my bag. 

 

A few things I thought should be addressed with this program. First, because our local Kmart is inside our mall and the sheer number of volunteers and children to shop are so many, the station to meet your child shopper is on the opposite side of the mall. I understand this is logistically neccesary for crowd control purposes, but was alarmed at the fact no one ever ask me for an ID of any sort. I got in line, walked up to the station and they automatically gave me a young girl in 5th grade. Together we walked the full length of the mall, past stores and exits. Since Parents aren’t allowed to shop with their children, this truly concerned me.  They are trusting their child will be safe. Second, the check out time was exhausting. After the child had been through the check out procedure, they could choose dollar items from rolling shelves and carts in close proximity to finish reaching their $100.00 limit. This made checking out twice as long for each child. My shopper’s total came to 98.00 and then she had to stand in front of the dollar section and choose 2 small items. At first glance it seems shameless of Kmart, as if they are trying to milk the very last penny out of this organization. Of course, I’m not privi to whether or not this is kmart’s doing but if not there still has to be a better way to do the check out. Last, we must remember that although this is a gift to these children the majority of these kids wear their new shoes and clothing to school the next day and begin playing with these toys immediately.   Parents are still left with what can they do for their children on Christmas. 

I absolutely love that this program is helping students. Countless students from my elementary school met me with excitement, and hugs. For days one of my special education students greeted me by saying, “Do you like my new shoes? They are shiny.” This single gift alone made a huge impact on this student. Overall this gift to our school kids is a huge blessing and really what’s six hours in the grand scheme of things? It’s worth the time and effort if you pack lots of snacks and wear comfortable shoes. 

It’s Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas

Have you had as hard a time as I have staying in this fall season?Thanksgiving is this Thursday, yet it seems as if I’m late decorating my Christmas tree in the living room to display the ornaments I’ve collected through the years. Several friends have already boasted of their trees brightly shining in the windows of their homes. Is that why I feel anxious to pull out my decorations and begin to deck the halls?  Maybe.

Our extended family shared a thanksgiving meal this past Saturday, because that’s what our schedules dictated. An even earlier thanksgiving dinner just adds to my desire for Christmas, to transform our home with lights, ornaments, nativities, and decorations. Each of our calendars are already filled with dates of celebrations and parties. In fact, my husband and I have already attended our first Christmas banquet of the season. 

During this busy time of year, when you are making your Christmas lists and penciling in the dates for your invitations and deadlines, do you make plans to serve others? Serving others is a major part of this time of year for many people. Noone wants to see a child go without Christmas gifts, a warm coat or food to eat.  We greet friends and strangers alike with Merry Christmas and rally around the organizations that extend a helping hand.

Around our town the churches jump right in with Christmas productions, live nativities and opportunities to assist those less fortunate.  My local church will give us the opportunity to adopt a child for Christmas by hanging gift tags on a Christmas tree.  Others may do something similar or pack shoe boxes for children living in extreme poverty. Our city is blessed with programs like The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, Christmas Memories, The Refuge Center’s kids Christmas Store, Blue Angel, and so many other programs. There is no reason why a child should go without presents to open on Christmas Day.

I want my children to experience the full joy of this season, the reverence, the stories, the traditions, the giving and receiving. As with other years most of my extra time will be spent packing christmas bags at our local angel tree warehouse. I will not do this alone. Friends, relatives and especially my kids will have a part. My youngest will line up bicycles according to their child’s number while working along side me in the warehouse. My oldest will help families choose their Christmas Angels to adopt from off the tree at the mall. We will shop for our own Angels.

This Christmas don’t forget to give generously to those you love, your neighbors, and those who need a hand up. Be generous with your money and time. Time is important, creativity is useful. Volunteer to ring a bell, wrap gifts, help a child shop, pack gift bags or assemble bikes.

Why Washing Feet?

Why a blog about washing feet? What’s there to write about? Grab a bar of soap, a little water and scrub. Pretty self-explanatory? Well, not exactly. Washing feet is about service, the perfect example, set by Jesus Christ, lived out in the lives of those who choose to know Him better. Check out the book of John, chapter 13 in the Bible. 

  

In ancient days, when you entered a house, a servant met you to wash off the dust and dirt from your feet. It was a menial task for a servant. That is why when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, it was so significant. Jesus chose the most menial of jobs to demonstrate our place in the world. He said I set the example, now you follow my example.

He turned the world upside down. He said when someone smacks you, turn the other cheek, someone takes your coat, give them your shirt too. He instructed us to take care of the widow and orphan, the sick, destitute and poor. He said love your enemies. Is there anything remotely reasonable about loving your enemies? Still it’s in there. Can loving others the way Jesus loved us even be possible? I believe so. Why else would he teach us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is possible folks!

So how can we wash the feet of those in our families, our neighborhoods, and our world? Who can we look to? Who is choosing to live out Christ’s words? When? How?

That’s what I want to explore here.  Washing Feet is as much about wiping our kiddos runny noses, sticky fingers and yes, stinky bottoms as it is about taking care of the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta. How can we serve those around us? What can we do for our family, our neighborhoods, our world? It has been suggested to start with the person nearest you. Start with the small things but do them with great love. We can help. We can make a difference but as Mother Teresa said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” So let’s get our water basins and towels and wash some feet.

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