Tag Archives: humility

Barefoot

“Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals,
for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3: 5

 

The flap of skin hung limply as blood spilled from my big toe. I was always stubbing my toes, but that did not stop me from going barefoot. All summer long my feet, painted Mercurochrome orange , were recovering from some new assault. I stopped my play long enough to howl and go inside for a band aid, which soon fell off and turned up later in the sandbox or on the kitchen floor.

I went everywhere barefoot. Rides in the car with the ribbed, rubber mats on the floor and to the A & P, where the linoleum was slick and a little sticky. My feet loved the smooth oiled wooden floor in the Dime Store, where you could watch the cashews riding a little merry go round under a heat lamp and buy them warm and salty. I sprinted over the hot blacktop parking lot to place my order for a chocolate dipped cone at the Dairy Queen. Creeping over sharp edged dirt clods in the garden, while crying, Ouch, ouch, ouch!”; quick little steps over the sharp gravel in the alley;  sprinting and sliding across the playground through dew drenched grass, I gathered information about the world through the soles of my feet.

I used my bare feet to climb up the playground slide, perch on the jungle gym, and entertain my friends by picking up pencils with my toes.  At Mrs. Wendel’s house next door, I sat on her  kitchen chair waving my feet and spreading my toes in the air as I ate the world’s best cookies. I found Nancy Drew mysteries at the public library with its cool polished floors and lovely smell of books. In winter I toasted my tootsies over the oil furnace grate in our dining room. Summers I challenged my brother to contests over who could hold his bare foot on an ice cube the longest.

Out at Grandpa’s in the country, I stepped carefully around chicken droppings. I hated the slimy feel of the stuff between my toes. I dug my feet down in warm beach sand, kicked up the soft talcum puff of dirt roads, splashed in creeks, slipped on mossy rocks, and screamed to discover that the strips of gooey mud clinging to my feet turned out to be leeches.

In the timeless land of a child’s summer,  I headed out each day, banging my feet against uneven sidewalk, where tree roots heaved and broke concrete into toe traps for children and the elderly. I caught my toes on furniture, had them run over with tricycles, wheel barrows and stomped on by my brother. (He will deny this.) My feet were acquainted with the occasional sickening goo of dog manure and the large disgusting toad, who liked to take a snooze in the cool of the evening just outside the back door. I checked the bottom of my foot for warts for weeks after the two of us collided and the toad lurched out from under my foot into the darkness.

Mercurochrome

Other hazards included stickers, splinters, bee stings, broken glass, and the ultimate horror of my mother: a rusty nail. The Rusty Nail loomed nearly as dangerous as polio or a communist in my childhood.  Once, running across a dock to leap in the lake, I caught a dock cleat between two toes. I played and swam all day. In the evening mom took me to Doc Jackson’s office where he cleaned out the debris between my toes and gave me a shot.

I even fought with my feet. My brother and I staged what we called feet-foot battles on the couch in the living room. The game was that we were trapped on a cliff with a thousand foot drop off and had enough food for only one of us to live for a year. We also had broken our arms in this scenario, so we had to fight for our survival with our feet and kick the other off the cliff/couch into certain death.

When a trip required shoes, I usually couldn’t find them. I remember when mom finally put her properly shod foot down.

“Put your shoes on! You can’t go uptown barefoot.”

“Why not, Mom?”

“Because old men spit on the sidewalks.”

That news gave me pause. Uptown there were no signs that said No shoes. No shirts. No service. I liked the signs with dripping blue icicles and the invitation, Come in. It’s cool inside! It would not be until after I had left home that my parents had air conditioning. Until her death a few years ago, my mother’s idea of a special treat was still going out somewhere for a “cool drink,” which meant lemonade or  Seven Up and air conditioning.

Today arthritis has crippled the joint of one of my toes. Something called Morton’s neuroma led  to the purchase of orthotic insoles. One toenail has decided to grow like a ram’s horn, partly due to injury and genetics. My mother had one of these toes too. Yet I still walk around the house and yard barefoot as much as possible and catch my toes on furniture.

 

I don’t know if my distaste for shoes has anything to do with my love for God, though the Holy One does seem to have a preference for a bare foot. When God told Moses to remove his sandals before the burning bush, God did not say take off your hat or your cloak or your tunic. Removing shoes is a sign of respect in many faiths. Perhaps God is asking us here to put nothing between our naked selves and the holy ground of God’s being.  No pricy Manolo, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton’s, but rather, the simple and sometimes stinky vulnerability of a bare foot is what pleases the Lord.

We can pick up an amazing amount of information through the soles of our feet. They also hold countless memories.  Maybe buried in our DNA is a holiness sensing device, which only works when we take off our shoes. I have attended church services where the custom was for people to leave their shoes at the entrance to the Sanctuary.  They worshiped together barefoot. There was something so dear and, at the same time, profound in seeing all those shoes lined up in neat rows at the door with people sitting around or kneeling with their little piggies hanging out.

Holiness demands honesty and simplicity. Pretense, denial, deceit, and anything I might put on to cover up the truth of my own weakness, shame, or deep need must be removed, as we move closer to holiness. There are so many things we can put between ourselves and direct contact with the holiness of God on this good earth. God’s partiality for a bare foot over a resume wipes away any illusions that my worth is related to my bank account, or accomplishments. Maybe God is only a sucker for a well turned ankle, but I think it is our childlike, barefoot vulnerability and humility which God can’t resist.

I miss those barefoot days. I think I was closer to something essential, earthy and real. I want to spend less time walking back and forth in sensible shoes in the ivory tower of my head, and more time trodding the messy ecstasy of the naked sole.

God of the Bare Foot,
help me this day to take off
whatever I try to put on
between myself
and your wondrous love.

 

This is a revised version of a blog previously posted 7.26.2010

Special Note 
for Topeka, Kansas Area Readers

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Topeka area residents, watch for a fun way to support local charities, including The Sanctuary Foundation. Save this date: June 3, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm, at  Fairlawn Mall. 

On that day your gift to The Sanctuary Foundation fund will be increased by a pro-rated match gift from The Topeka Community Foundation. Watch for more details on how to stretch your dollars in supporting the wonderful work being done in Topeka.

  • We are looking for helpers to sit at our booth for an half hour or so to share with people why The Sanctuary is important to you.
  • We also  need comments from those we serve about what The Sanctuary means to you, how we may have made a difference in your life, stories, anecdotes, etc to help us let others learn more about us. You can comment here, or at our website , on our Facebook page,  by emailing us at lross@fromholyground.org.

Thanks to all your help over the past twenty five years
we are still going strong!

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Morning News Pre-Empted by Older Story

Today while listening to the morning news, I heard an old hymn edging its way between the story on the election and the update on survivors of the hurricane.

I will tell you what it was in a minute, but first I offer you my Op-Ed.

I am not counting on my vote getting the leadership I want us to have. Nor am I counting on getting my views on our responsibility to the suffering of others to prevail.

What I count on and lay down my life for, is the goodness of a Reality larger than politics, economics, global warming, war, and corporate interests. I am putting my support on a Being greater and more graceful than the tiny brains of human beings. My candidate is the invincible  Substance of things hoped for, which sees beyond what is, yet dwells in the midst of our chaos and sings in the human heart.

Under my fears I can hear the wondrous freedom song that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not human sin, stupidity, or weakness, not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8: 38-39 CEV)

The Holy One dwells as ground beneath our feet in astonishing humility – wiser, brighter, and kinder than we are – who will hold us up and see us through.

In this season of distress, polarities, and uncertainty, I am banking on the hidden connections among our species, those channels of mercy that run deeper than ideologies and seep into the crevices of our vulnerability, which is both our great flaw and our greater glory, penetrating down into the solid rock of compassion, imagination, and strength.

The world does not need our anger, our outrage, our fear, or our grasping need to get others to believe as we do. I believe the world needs our humility and our faith.

For my part I can think of nothing better to offer this little piece of history than these simple gifts of the soul.

Now, here is the hymn which intruded into my morning news:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
                                          Edward Mote

Barefoot

“Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals,
for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3: 5
I loved it, even though I was always stubbing my toes. All summer long my big toes, painted bright orange with Mercurochrome, were recovering from some new assault. I stopped my play long enough to howl and go inside for a band aid, which always fell off and turned up later in the sandbox or on the kitchen floor.
I went everywhere barefoot. Rides in the car with the ribbed, rubber mats on the floor, to the A & P, where the linoleum was slick and a little sticky, to the Dime Store where the oiled floor was smooth and fragrant, and you could watch the cashews riding a little merry go round under a heat lamp and buy them warm and salty. I sprinted over the hot blacktop parking lot to place my order for a chocolate dipped cone at the Dairy Queen. Creeping over sharp edged dirt clods in the garden, hobbling over rocks in the alley, running up and down the streets and walks and through dew drenched grass, I picked up information about the world through the soles of my feet.
I used my bare feet to climb up the playground slide, perch on the jungle gym, and entertain my friends by picking up pencils with my toes.  At my neighbor, Mrs. Wendel’s house, I sat on chair swinging my feet in the air and eating a cookie. I found Nancy Drew mysteries at the public library with its cool polished floors and lovely smell of books. In winter I toasted my tootsies over the oil furnace grate. Summers I challenged my brother to contests over who could hold his bare foot on an ice cube the longest.
Out at Grandpa’s in the country, I stepped carefully around the chicken droppings. I was acquainted with the slimy feel of the stuff between my toes. I ambled through my world digging my feet in warm beach sand, kicking up the soft talcum puff of dirt roads, splashing in creeks, slipping on mossy rocks, and screaming to discover that the strips of gooey mud clinging to my feet turned out to be leeches.
Off I would go, banging my toes against uneven sidewalk, where tree roots heaved the concrete into toe catching traps for children and the elderly. I caught my toes on furniture, had them run over with tricycles, wheel barrows and stomped on by my brother. (He will deny this.) There was the occasional sickening goo of dog manure and the large disgusting toad, who had a habit of taking a snooze in the cool of the evening just outside the back door. I checked the bottom of my foot for warts for weeks after that encounter.
Other hazards included stickers, splinters, bee stings, broken glass, and the horror of my mother, a rusty nail. The Rusty Nail loomed nearly as dangerous as polio or a communist in my childhood.  Once, running across a dock to leap in the lake, I caught a dock cleat between two toes. I played and swam all day. In the evening mom took me to Doc Jackson’s office where he cleaned out the debris between my toes and gave me a shot.
I even fought with my feet. My brother and I staged what we called feet-foot battles on the couch in the living room. We were trapped on a cliff with a thousand foot drop off and had enough food for only one of us to live for a year. We also had broken our arms in this scenario, so we had to fight for our survival with our feet and kick the other into oblivion.
When a trip required shoes, I usually couldn’t find them. I remember when mom finally put her properly shod foot down.
“Put your shoes on! You can’t go uptown barefoot.”
“Why not, Mom?”
“Because old men spit on the sidewalks.”
Well, that did give me pause. Uptown there were no signs that said No shoes. No shirts. No service. I do recall signs with dripping blue icicles and the invitation, Come in. It’s cool inside! To this day even though she has had air conditioning for years, my mother’s idea of a special treat is going out somewhere for a “cool drink,” which means lemonade or  Seven Up.
I go barefoot much less these days. Arthritis has set into the joint of one of my toes. Something called Morton’s neuroma led me to the purchase of orthotic insoles.
I don’t know if my distaste for shoes had anything to do with my love for God, though the Holy One does seem to have a preference for a bare foot. When God told Moses to remove his sandals before the burning bush, he didn’t say take off your hat or your cloak or your tunic. Removing shoes is a sign of respect inmany faiths. Perhaps God is asking us to put nothing between our naked selves and the holy ground of God’s being.  No pricy Manolo, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton’s, butrather, the simple and sometimes stinky vulnerability of a bare foot is what pleases the Lord.
You can pick up an amazing amount of information through the soles of your feet. They also hold countless memories.  Maybe buried in our DNA is a holiness sensing device, which only works when we take off our shoes.
Holiness demands honesty and simplicity. Pretense, denial, deceit, and anything I might put on to cover up the truth of my own weakness and deep need must be removed, as we move closer to holiness. There are so many things we can put between ourselves and direct contact with the holiness of God on this good earth. God’s partiality for a bare foot over a resume wipes away any illusions that my worth is related to my bank account, or accomplishments. Maybe God is only a sucker for a well turned ankle, but I think it is our childlike, barefoot vulnerability and humility which he can’t resist.
I miss those barefoot days. I think I was closer to something essential, earthy and real. These days I walk back and forth in sensible shoes in the ivory tower of my head, rather than trod the messy ecstasy of the naked sole.
I do go out, weather permitting, without shoes to pick up my morning paper. I feel the rough walk under my feet and the wet grass between my toes. I look at the sky, the birds. I say:
Good Morning, Lord.
Help me this day to take off
whatever I try to put on
between myself
and your wondrous love.
Read more about prayer at www.fromholyground.org Tracking Holiness – Newsletter
Contact the author at lross@fromholyground.org,  www.fbook.me/sanctuary
Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross
Become a fan of the The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer

Mudbabes and Humility

Spring was on the way, and Ahs was feeling sorry for himself.  “I am just pitiful,” whined the dog. “Pitiful is what it is. My pen is pitiful. My food is pitiful. My body is pitiful. My life is pitiful.”

Isabella and Captain Midnight, the two new rabbits, were itching to scratch their toes in the dirt. They had their eyes on the soft earth with the leaf mold under the hedge south of the house. They would soon rake back the leaves, scrape out a nice trough to stretch out in, and flop over in the moist dirt on their backs.

___________________________

What does the Lord require? Acts of justice, a love of kindness, and a humble walk with God, according to Amos. For some people the requirements of justice and love do not seem to be as difficult to offer God as humility. Perhaps that is because humility is allusive. Once you think you’ ve got it, you’ve lost it.  Though difficult I think it is well worth aiming for.  It is a key to happiness. As the Irish say, “Humility, that low sweet root from which all heavenly virtues shoot.”

Humility comes from the word humus. Humus, which is what Isabella is itching to stretch out in, refers to the brown or black material resulting from decomposition of plant or animal matter and forming the organic portion of the soil. The virtue of humility and the earth are intrinsically connected.

A lot about being Christian has to do with coming down where we ought to be and staying there. Here four-legged critters might have an advantage. Any significant brush with the holy can leave us reeling and unsteady with a tendency forgrandiosity and fanaticism. This is why the more one prays, the more one needs to go around barefoot, sit down, lie down, stretch down upon the earth, and stay in close touch with brothers and sisters who crawl, gallop, trot, and slither.

To be humble is not to make comparisons, observed Dag Hammarskjöld: “To have humility is to experience reality, not in relation to ourselves, but in its sacred independence. It is to see, judge, and act from the point of rest in ourselves.”

To be human is to encounter limits and to suffer. Through our suffering we have the opportunity to greet and love the sacred vulnerability that resides in the heart of matter and to forgive ourselves for being human. The dying God, all bloody, hanging on a tree, may repulse, offend, scandalize, or leave us unmoved and detached. Our response may mirror our inner relationship to our own human frailty. How much compassion and generosity can you bring to yourself in your situation? Not denial, resentment, or blame – but rather, gentle acceptance of who you are in your sacred independence and trust that you have been created and loved by God and are therefore worthy of your own affection and regard.

What is pitiful is when we get the notion we ought not to be pitiful and then take an attitude of contempt toward ourselves. The fact is we are pitiful – all of us, poor and meager, sinners. Can we lower ourselves enough to enter our pitiful reality, live there, and love it with Jesus?

The name Adam in the creation story in Genesis derives from adamah, which means  “the ground.” It refers to God’s forming humanity from the earth. A friend translates Adam as “mudbabe.”

You don’t like the way you are, the way things are? You see room for improvement, need for change? One of the lessons of Lent and Easter is that transformation, healing, and new life come not from a magical deus ex machina that drops out of the sky to change whatever it is that doesn’t suit us. Rather, as Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem, he invites us to rub our noses in the mud and honestly face the painful realities of our lives and world, as he does the same on the cross.

Feeling a little pitiful yourself? That is why the Almighty came down to earth and let us treat holiness as we treat one another. God comes to teach us to show mercy to one another. God says in Jesus, “Look, my mudbabes, I am not above being human. You ought not to be either. You are going to fail and hurt one another. You are going to make mistakes and come to the limits of your flesh, your mind, and your faith.”

Sometimes I do not know what prayer is beyond the long worn rag of human longing waved toward the heavens like a tattered flag. Today I think prayer has to do with putting down one foot after the other upon this earth, while being honest with ourselves and God about our limitations. Today I think prayer is stretching out in the dirt.

Try this. Go find a place outdoors where there is no concrete smothering the ground. Take off your shoes. Put one bare foot down upon the earth and then the other. Then kneel down on all fours and press your forehead into the ground. Feel the self-importance, pretense, and the absurd seriousness with which you take yourself drain off. Smell the earth. Take a good look at the dust from which you came and to which you will return.

Then go have a sandwich and give thanks that you are human and just exactly who you are. Savor and honor the piece of humanity you represent. And taste the goodness of humility.

Adapted from Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta F. Ross, Sheed & Ward, 2000
Read more about prayer at www.fromholyground.org
Contact Loretta at lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary
Follow at http://twitter.com/lfross
Become a fan of the The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer