After their last supper together, Jesus asked Peter to let him wash his feet. Peter protested.

Peter looked at Jesus and said, “You’ll never wash my dirty feet—never!”
“But Peter, if you don’t allow me to wash your feet,” Jesus responded, “then you will not be able to share life with me.” (from John 13 in The Passion Translation)

Jesus confronted him sternly. This was important. This was so important that Jesus said Peter could not be a part of him if he did not let Jesus wash his feet.

On that evening full of important parting instructions, he also said, “So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply!” (verse 17)

Loving one another deeply requires mutual submission. Submission is not a word I like. Surrender is even worse. By confronting Peter he gave the clear message: Unless you are willing to accept help — my help — you can’t be a part of this.

This is the aspect of submission that I’ve missed for so many years. Submission doesn’t mean being a doormat to someone who would take advantage. Submission means saying, “How can I extend myself to help you to become all Christ means you to be?” Submission also means surrendering to Christ when he says, “Let me help you.”

Submission means becoming vulnerable to God’s goodness.

Experiencing God’s goodness is a prerequisite to loving one another.

Creative Meditations for Lent, Word prompt: Let


I took a photo of a plant outside the building for today’s creative meditation for Lent. The word prompt was “Belong.” The bold striped leaves have thrived despite everything a discouragingly cold winter could throw at it. Each leaf is growing in a different direction, but all are connected to the same root. All receive sustenance from the same source. It reminds me of belonging.

In the time when Jesus and the disciples walked the earth, belonging to a family or tribe or nation was important. None of this lone ranger, I-did-it-my-way stuff. Losing your place in a community was (and for most still is) a terrible punishment. Shame was both the cause and result of rejection. A person who brought shame on the family by an act considered to be disloyal was expelled. That’s why leprosy was a disease feared more than most. “Leper” has become a word synonymous with the opposite of inclusion.

For the majority of the world’s people, (and increasingly so in the West) belonging is more important than being right or wrong. It’s all about your connections, your family name, or your tribal identity. (Which may help explain why some people with extremely loose interpretations of the law are voted into positions of power.)

We call it “cancel culture” or “boycotting” now, but rejection has had many names in the past. Historically, those who failed to honour the group were banished, shunned, excommunicated, or disinherited.  It’s an effective tool for maintaining power and control. Various religious institutions have used it for ages. We see an example in the Bible when the parents of the man who Jesus healed of blindness were afraid to respond during the temple leaders’ inquest lest they be thrown out.

Jesus told his followers they could expect the same kind of treatment he experienced. What greater rejection could there be than the “honour killing” calls of “Crucify him!” that the mob in Jerusalem shouted?

Jesus took time to assure his followers they did belong. They belonged with him. Those who trust in him now also become part of the family of God and members of the household of faith. They are the called-out sons and daughters from every tribe and every nation who become one as part of the body of Christ. They grow from the same nourishing root.

Through Christ, we are not only forgiven, but welcomed into the family of God. One day we will be welcomed as the honoured, shame-free, guilt-free bride without spot or wrinkle at the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is where we truly belong. The Lover of our souls will never leave us or reject us. He promised.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV)



Someone told me there were paved trails with good views of the city up by the Pioneers’ Cemetery. I was thinking I would do something on “When I consider the heavens…” from Psalm 8 for today’s photo meditation for Lent using the word prompt, “consider.” I went there to look for a good shot of the sky and the sunset over the city and the lake. But the sun disappeared. The foreground view was filled with warehouses and industrial sites. I hadn’t intended to spend time looking at the gravestones. That feels like a macabre activity, but they caught my attention.

The Hebrew word translated as “consider” in most translations of the Bible means “to see, perceive, regard, observe, watch, study, discern…” You get the idea. I perceived something I hadn’t really taken note of before and that was the number of graves of women in their twenties and thirties. I had seen graves of young mine and railway workers before, but I hadn’t really considered how young many of the women were when their bodies were laid in those graves. It seemed that if a woman made it past childhood disease years and childbearing years, she would had a good chance of living to an old age of sixty or more.

Then I saw it. I am in my sixties. By standards of a hundred plus years ago, I am one of the lucky ones who has lived to an old age.

The verse, “Teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90) came to mind. There is something about taking time to consider, to contemplate, to pay attention, that helps us gain wisdom. I realized that I can be thankful for many years that others never had. In fact, the fewer years seniors can reasonably expect to have ahead of them, the more valuable those years become.

I also realize that no matter how many years we have, they are never enough. We are meant to be eternal creatures. Jesus offers us eternal life. He restores us to our original settings. That’s what this season leading up to Resurrection Sunday is all about.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2: 4, 5 NIV)


“When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?”

-Psalm 8:3,4

I marvel at God’s handiwork from the most miniscule particle to unimaginable distances in space. I am fascinated by the power of the sun’s explosions and the sensitivity of tiny cilia in the inner ear. I marvel at his strength and his gentleness. God’s omnipotence is so perfectly under control that the most vulnerable person, broken by the cruelty of the world, can come to him, lean her head on his chest, call him “Abba,” and know she is perfectly safe.

Old Things Have Passed Away

Word prompt for today’s Lent meditation: Old/New

I saw these old dead flowers in a flower bed by the church down the street. When I had my own garden I gathered spent flowers and threw them in a compost bin. Later, I shoveled the unrecognizable rotted material into the garden and worked it into the soil.

I suppose that if we are what we eat, plants are what they eat too. The nutrients in old dead flowers become green beans or sugar peas or sunflowers that may bear no resemblance to the plants of the former season.

The transformation Christ creates in us is even more dramatic. He says that baptism is a symbol of the old self dead and buried and the new self raised and living a life transformed. Holy Spirit is in us to oversee the change into the image of Christ.

“For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We get a re-do, this time with access to the throne of Creator of the Universe — the Three in One who has never lost a battle.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” These are the ones who recognize their spiritual need, the ones who have tried and know they can’t make it on their own. To the spiritually downcast he gives a promise: “for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

The psalms written by the Sons of Korah are about the journey back from rebellion and shame. This is in Psalm 42.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Sometimes God plants a glimpse of higher things right there on the ground where the downcast can find it.

Look up. Your redemption is coming closer.


whiter than snow ch rs IMG_2825

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7 NASB)

The word I’m contemplating today is clean. It’s ironic that quoting this phrase from Psalm 51 brings up memories of condemnation because of guilt by association.

When I was a young teenager I went to my friend’s church. The speaker that morning was a missionary with their denomination who worked in Africa. I remember him railing against the missionaries with my family’s denomination. Their crime? They sang a song including the line, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall become white as snow.” He interpreted this as insensitive, blatant racism.

I felt defensive and ashamed at the same time – as a child does when confronted by an attack on her own tribe and who realizes the attacker could be partially right. I had never considered that metaphors carry different meanings to different people, or that someone could take this literally. Did they really think the song could mean ‘Come to Jesus and he can make your skin just like my vastly superior white skin?” If so, that would be horribly insensitive.

When she found out which church I usually went to, my friend’s sister spat out, “Literalist!” I looked down at my pink skin with its random brown polka dots and wondered where the term ‘white’ came from. I certainly wasn’t white as snow. I guess I wasn’t a very good literalist either.

In dream interpretation, symbols can be very personal. If dogs are mangy, snarling, scavengers in your neighbourhood, a dog showing up in your dream will carry a different connotation than if you grew up in a place where dogs curl up on laps and eat organic puppy food from their human’s hand.

The symbol of snow can carry different meaning as well. I live in a place where dazzling white snow makes you reach for sunglasses. I also tire of snow. I haven’t seen a blade of green grass in months. The snow shovelled onto piles by the sidewalk in front of my house is not exactly pure white right now. Between the sand flung from passing trucks, evidence of healthy digestive systems left by passing animals, and the absorption of dullness from a dismal grey sky, the view from my window is not particularly inspiring. Snow can be dazzling, as it was when I captured the moment in the photo above, but at the moment, snow carries a different connotation for me.

Snow falls in the Middle East far less often than it does here. Perhaps people who live in warm climates regard snow as a strange white wonder. I don’t know. I don’t live there.

The people behind the development of The Passion Translation phrased this passage differently in their attempt to accurately capture David’s feelings when confronted by his own hidden sin.

I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit.
So come into the hidden places of my heart
and teach me wisdom.
Purify my conscience! Make this leper clean again!
Wash me in your love until I am pure in heart.
Satisfy me in your sweetness, and my song of joy will return.
The places within me you have crushed
will rejoice in your healing touch.
Hide my sins from your face;
erase all my guilt by your saving grace.
Create a new, clean heart within me.
Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you.


Sometimes we miss a writer’s or speaker’s point because our minds snag on the way something is expressed in the process of getting to the main point. If we are expecting to hear something offensive, we will hear insults. If we are looking for negative messages, they will be projected like grey sky on a pile of snow. We tend to see what we are looking for.

Deep places of the heart post guards around pain. Defensiveness seeks to disqualify the light from revealing pain or shame. When we have our guard up we can miss the sweetness and joy that comes from knowing we are forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness. We miss knowing true tender love from Abba Father when we keep him at a distance.

There is more. There is love, joy, peace and deep healing available when we turn to our maker and ask him to create a clean heart in us.

He is willing.

While I reminisced about my youth, a song from the 70s began to play in my head. Apt, considering today’s theme.


*In a case of amusing timing, I just learned from the results of a DNA test one of my adult kids received, that I passed on some Nigerian genes to my progeny. I’m even less white than the missionary assumed.



Tie lake stones mountains water bw DSC_0417
It wasn’t the kind of day when people think about going to the lake. I heard no boats, or children’s laughter, or squealing teens in the middle of a splash fight. I smelled no sweet  poplar sap or tangy sauce from smoking barbecues. The quiet off-season offers a different perception.

Someone suggested creating a photographic meditation during the Lent season as a preparatory discipline for Resurrection Sunday. If this were a religious requirement to add to a to-do list in order to appease an angry or narcissistic god, I would not participate, believe me. This is voluntary. I respond to this appeal to worship creatively. I make no promises about blogging the process daily. Not everything on the journey is for public consumption, but I will share my thoughts today.

Today’s word is surface, and yet, divergent (maybe even contrary) thinker that I am, I find I find myself drawn to go beyond the obvious and look for objects below the surface.

In a discussion with the religious “experts” of his time, who accused him of breaking the law by healing someone on the day of obligatory rest, Jesus said this:

“My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.”

The people who couldn’t hear pushed back.

The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”

Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. (John 7:16-24 NLT)

Look beneath the surface.

We took a course on parenting teens. The teacher urged us to engage with our kids when emotional issues arose so we could understand the beliefs they held “below the water line.” The example he gave was of a girl who was desperate wanted to make a cheer-leading team and devastated when she didn’t.

After a heart to heart talk, the mother learned her daughter had accepted some lies about herself. Making the squad would squash her fears that inadequate attractiveness, or athletic talent would hinder her acceptance by people in her world. Under the water, lying unseen, was the shallow belief that her worth, her safety, her happiness, depended on what people thought about her and not on what God thought or could do. She was on the verge of making dangerous choices based on an unexamined false assumption.

The example prompted me to examine unconscious beliefs in my own life. One of the questions coming out of that experience was, “Why have I placed the approval of  humans (who can be very disappointing) ahead of the approval of the One who loves me perfectly and so selflessly that he was willing to give his only Son to demonstrate that love?”

In the altercation with the religious experts Jesus says it is possible to see below the surface. Their motive was not based on love. His was.

Jesus’ demonstration of love changed everything. God’s new covenant was not a reform school arrangement with punishments for breaking rules meant to clue rebellious kids into the fact that they are not actually in charge. God’s new covenant is based on responding to his love. Since you can’t say yes to love if you can’t say no, freedom is an essential part of this arrangement. Grace offers freedom. Grace is a terrifying concept to religious experts who are themselves motivated by fear of punishment.

Solomon, the king who was granted wisdom in response to his request to rule well, wrote:

There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:12 NASB)

When we are being rational we use reason. When we rationalize we try to give actions, which seem right to us, the appearance of reason. We can be quite convincing — especially to ourselves. Sometimes our “appearance of reason” involves false ideas about God.

How can we know what lies down there? First, by admitting there is stuff down there. Second, by asking for help.

I keep coming back to Psalm 139. The psalmist sings about being intimately known by the Creator from his first moment of existence. It ends this way:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Jesus is saying, “Look beneath the surface.” The surgeons who removed the nasty malignant tumour in my guts in October would not have been able to do so if I not had the guts to subject myself to diagnostic scans or to sign consent forms. I admit it was a struggle to trust them. It hurt. But now it is done and I am healing well.

In this season of preparation I am asking the Lord to help me see beneath the surface and lead me in his way of thinking.

Change my heart, oh God. Make it ever new. I give consent.

And I don’t say that lightly.


IMG_5834 sunset idlewild reflection ch

My help only comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

I thought that when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet he was giving them an example of how to serve others. That was part of it, but for some there was more. Peter didn’t want his feet washed. He saw himself as one who looked after Jesus. He was the guy who bragged he was willing to take up arms and fight to protect the honour of the Son of God. After all, didn’t Jesus himself re-name him and gave him the identity of “Rock?” That sounds pretty solid and trustworthy.
When Jesus told him it was necessary to submit to the foot-washing thing it was the beginning of the week of stripping away all of Peter’s confidence.

A song keeps playing in my head — “Killing Me with Mercy” by Misty Edwards. It’s about Peter’s undoing.

What are You doing Lord, kneeling in front of me?
I feel indignant Lord, that You’d ever wash my feet
I’ll never let You see the dark and dirty
It’s just too much for me
I know who You are, and I know where I have been
It offends me Lord, that Your knees are bent
I’d rather You be strong and make me pay
But this is too much for me.


It was as if Jesus was saying to Peter, “Let’s get this straight. You are not here to meet my needs. I don’t need you to tell me how to do things. I don’t need you to defend me. I don’t need you to clean up my image. You need me, because without me you can do nothing. Nothing.”


The events that followed proved that. Peter’s courage, the character quality he took pride in, failed miserably when he denied Christ. He was stripped and broken. Without a shred of self-confidence he ran and wept struck with the horror of his own neediness.


For those wishing to press on in this journey to know Christ there comes a time of stripping away everything we have come to rely on in ourselves. This often comes after experiences of feeling close to God and seeing him work through us, sometimes in astounding ways. Peter and the boys had seen miraculous healing and demons fleeing when Jesus sent them out on their own. They were doing the stuff! Even Judas did the stuff. They were with Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem to a spontaneous riot of approval -and you can bet they soaked up the “friends of” benefits. It was just after that when Jesus challenged their pride.


I’ve watched people go through this process. It’s where I have been for the past few weeks. I won’t lie. It hurts very deeply. The very thing we think makes us of value in the kingdom, the reason God chose us for his team, the potential he himself has identified in us, is proven to be too fragile to serve him adequately.
Misty’s song again:

I’m a fragile stone
I’m a vow that’s broken
I’m a rock that’s crumbled at Your feet.


Judas was also devastated when he realized what he had done when he betrayed Jesus. He ran away and allowed his pride to kill him. Pride says, “I should have been able to do this! I am too ashamed to go on because I do not believe there is anyone to turn to. There is no hope.”


Peter, on the other hand, humbled as he was, did not finish himself off, although I bet the thought crossed his mind. Instead he waited and when he met the resurrected Christ on the shore cooking fish over a charcoal fire, just like the one that horrible night, things had changed. He knew he could not love God adequately. He knew he deserved rejection. Jesus’ offer of love was even more uncomfortable than it was the night of the foot-washing.


And that’s when Jesus could use him. He still wanted him. When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost he spoke with a boldness that was not his own. He spoke with the boldness of the One who knelt down and washed his stinky feet.

But You still want me
You say my love is real, though my love is weak
You still believe, the vows I make, I break, I make, I break
You still want me
You’re killing me with mercy, I can’t breath
You’re wrecking me with Your kindness, I can’t receive
What am I supposed to do with a God so humble?
It’s breaking me
I’ll just believe
And let You love me.


Misty Edwards, Killing Me With Mercy, from Little Bird album, Forerunner Music