The Heavenly Gardener

Photo by Blaise G Kordell

September in Pennsylvania is one of the most glorious times of the year. Walking down the driveway this morning to open the gate my heart was lifted by the dew shining on the hemlocks and the leaves gently falling in the breeze. Warm sunny days followed by cool evenings.  And oh, the animal sounds.  The Canadian geese flying overhead, the barks of grey squirrels and cries of the chippies as they vie for the falling acorns. The pileated woodpeckers making their winter homes. Turkeys calling their flocks together and the deer moving into rutting season.  The woods are alive with nature on the move.

And what of us.  We humans.  Those of us who garden are getting beds ready for Winter.  Planting Spring bulbs.  We know it’s a great time to plant shrubs and trees, but it’s also time to prune.  Of course, most pruning takes place in Spring after the shrubs and trees have flowered, but there are plants that must be taken care of now. Shrub roses come to mind. However most of what gets pruned during the Autumn is dead weight…. dead branches, sucker growth, diseased growth, and anything infected with bugs.  This helps the plants and trees grow stronger and healthier in the Spring.

Jesus tells us that his Father is a gardener. He lovingly tends his plants and prunes them carefully so they too will grow strong and healthy as the seasons pass.

“I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”

                                                John 15:1-3 NAB 

Now just what does Jesus mean when he says he is the vine? We’re talking about his mystical body.  The one that we all belong to, everyone of us, whether we believe it or not.  We, God’s plants,  are all connected in one beautiful body.  What one of us does affects the rest of the body, or to put it more plainly, not one of your actions is done in a vacuum. Every single thing you do affects every other person on the planet, and Jesus is the heart or vine of that body.

So what does God use to prune with?  Before you go jumping to conclusions, let me set you straight right now.  It’s not war, or disease, or natural disasters, or any other horrible thing you might come up with.  It’s as the above quote says …‶the word that I spoke to you.”

Jesus tells his disciples that God prunes with the teachings He gave. When we follow those teachings, pruning is happening. Which teachings you might ask? These…..

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,”

Matt 22:36-40 NAB

The gardener is asking us to love. That’s it. Love. Ourselves, our neighbors, and our God. Every time we love, a piece of diseased limb is pruned off of us, or perhaps somewhere else in that great mystical body.  Every time we love we make the vine grow stronger and healthier. And the heavenly gardener smiles.

Feet Washing People

Have you seen this painting?  I’m sure most of you have, but for those of you who might have missed it, the painting is Leonardo de Vinci’s famous portrayal of what Christians call the Last Supper.  This took place in an upper room in a large building. Now stay with me even if you don’t believe in God, or you pursue another faith, because it doesn’t matter. This very human story applies to all of us.

Let’s begin at the beginning…. what were Jesus and his disciples doing there?  Jesus was a devout Jew and it was time to celebrate the Jewish Passover meal called a Seder. As the Leader of his Apostles he was the host for the commemoration and had insured all the preparations necessary for the meal were made.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.  Middle Eastern hospitality during that time period required that guests were provided with a water basin and fresh towels to wash their feet before entering the house or building.  Sounds a bit strange to us, but think about it for a minute.  There were no paved streets and so the roads were either dust filled or muddy. Okay, not too bad, you say, but remember everyone wore sandal like footwear.  Also, no sewers….so um, urine and feces, plus all types of animal dung were daily hazards. Pretty awful.  Now the basins make sense.  Of course the job of cleaning the mud and dung off people’s feet was usually given to the lowest slave. 

So here we are, the twelve apostles have come to the upper room to celebrate a very holy meal with their Master, and what does He do? 

“He got up from the supper table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his loins, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.”

                                                            John 13:4-5

Jesus dressed himself like a slave and cleaned the excrement off the feet of his guests.  What a powerful image.  Imagine Vladimir Putin or Queen Elizabeth or Jeff Bezos bringing in twelve people who work for them and seat them around a lavishly set table.  Then imagine the three stripping off their finery and serving the meal.  I’m not even talking about them washing their employees’ feet.  Just serving the meal.  The whole meal, from beginning to end without asking anything in return.  Now, think about those three washing dried feces off twelve pairs of feet.  Pretty hard to picture isn’t it. But that is precisely what happened.  And if we think about it for a few minutes it becomes very humbling. 

Remember Jesus washes Judas’ feet too knowing this man would betray him. Still he shows him love.  We need to become feet washing people!  Of course, this requires that we quit looking at ourselves first and seek out the moments to help wash the grime of life off those around us.   I believe that if we all did a little less mud splashing and a little more foot washing, we would find more peace in ourselves and our world.

Lupus in the News

A very famous Kim has put Lupus in the news this week. Now one might argue that this is just another publicity stunt by a very press savvy family, and that might be the case, BUT Lupus is getting some much needed attention.

Starting with a primer on Lupus in Allure magazine before airing the season opener for Keeping Up with the Kardashians Sunday night, every major media outlet has run at least one story on the autoimmune disease. As someone who fights Lupus daily, as well as other autoimmune diseases, I say it’s about time the spotlight is shifted toward the nearly 25 million Americans who deal with the chronic struggle of autoimmune illness.

Kim Kardashian

Think of that number… 25 million people. And that’s a low estimate from the National Institute of Health because it only recognizes 24 of the over 40 autoimmune illnesses. When those diseases are included the amount of people affected in the United States rises to over 50 million. Compare that to the 9 million people diagnosed with cancer or the 22 million with heart disease. An even closer look at the numbers show that autoimmune healthcare costs total over $100 billion a year versus $57 billion for cancer, but only $591 million is spent on research for autoimmune compared to $6.1 billion on cancer.

Well, people die of cancer you say. Yes they do, but did you know that Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women up to 64 years of age? Most autoimmune diseases have no cures, like Lupus. Lupus can only be treated, the goal is to quiet disease activity. So if Ms. Kardashian is shedding tears, those are real. Lupus can and does kill. Being told you now have to engage in a lifelong battle with your body would bring most people to tears.

I am truly sorry that Ms. Kardashian is embarking on this roller coaster of a disease. It will be difficult for her and her family in the days to come. I hope in time she may use her celebrity voice to become a strong advocate for all who endure the battle every single day. May God bless her.

Arthur-ritis…He’s a Pain

After weeks and weeks of boredom, I finally received the go ahead to type with my right hand as long as I don’t use my thumb on the space bar. So I am ready to resume my blog with vigor.

I thought I would start by giving you a bit of information on the surgery that I had. My surgeon called it a trapeziectomy arthroplasty with suture suspension and carpal tunnel release. That’s short for taking out the offending bone that’s causing pain and making that carpal tunnel at the base of the wrist opening bigger so the nerves don’t get pinched.

See that red nasty guy at the base of the thumb grinding away at the nice little bone above him? Yeah, that’s the bugger. He was removed and a cute suspension bridge was made out of suture and muscle to keep the sore little bone in place. Easy peasy. No more pain. In two weeks I finally get out of this hand cast, and then I can start work on regaining strength and flexibility in my thumb.

It really hasn’t been too bad. The hardest part has been learning to do everything with my left hand. My oldest son and several other family members are left handed. What I don’t understand is why you lefties haven’t taken to the streets? Talk about prejudice! Everything is geared towards right-handed people. Door handles. Toilet handles. Check out lanes. Cars. Faucets. Appliances. Toys. Electronics. Sports items. Artist tools. Every. Dam. Thing. No wonder left handed people are more successful in life than their right- handed counterparts. They must adapt every aspect of their life to a right handed world. Did you know five of our last eight presidents were left -handed? But I digress.

I plan on getting back to blogs on aging and grand parenting from a distance as well as anything else that pops into my head. Pretty dangerous, that. If you have any topics you want covered, just drop me a note!

Angels and Demons

I have hesitated about writing this blog post. A few women who are very dear to me have indeed been the victims of sexual or physical abuse by men. Those men were indeed toxic by all standards, and each and everyone should be held accountable for his actions.

But I am also the mother of sons who are about as toxic as water on a hot day. I feel I need to speak out against the idea that all men are toxic or are culpable in the toxicity of other males. Demonizing an entire gender is exactly what the original suffragettes were fighting against.

Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less. - Susan B. Anthony

For almost 40 years I have been married to the kindest and gentlest of men. My father was a gentle giant as was his brother. My own brother is one of the best humans I know. Uncles, cousins, nephews, grand-nephews, friends. Each one a human being that is honest, kind, compassionate, strong, loving, trustworthy, and capable.

Every one of us has the capacity to engage in toxic behavior because we are human. Most of us, male and female strive against those base desires. The angels among us do a better job than most. But make no mistake, male and female fail. Most of the scars I carry are from females…starting with my mom and continuing with the many so called friends over my lifetime. You know what I’m talking about.

Let’s quit pointing the fingers at males. Let’s start looking in the mirror and determine whether our own behavior is that of an angel or demon. We can only improve the world around us by starting with ourselves.

You would better educate ten women into the practice of liberal principles than to organize a thousand on a platform of intolerance and bigotry.”    Susan B. Anthony

The Afternoon of Life

We spend so much time and money racing after the fountain of youth. Coloring our hair, firming up our skin, trying to force our aging bodies into clothes meant for twenty somethings. Why do we do this? Our culture has an obsession with youth and all its trappings. Somewhere along the way of human development we forgot that the second half of life has purpose and meaning.

Carl Jung spent a great amount of time exploring this phenomenon. He separates the stages of life into morning, afternoon, and night. Each, like a day, has its own beauty, its own strength, its own function. I love this so much better than the seasons of life. Come on, who wants to be in the autumn of life where everything is decaying or the frigging winter, when everything looks like it’s dead?

Afternoon on the beach

In the afternoon, the sun is still shining, but not quite as hot…. it gently warms, allowing you to relax and reflect. The day is still full of potential, but now you can explore all those dreams you put off in the morning while you were busy with the industry of family and work. The afternoon is a time of great inward growth, a time to access our inner wisdom and let it work for the good of those around us.

Let go of the morning, and embrace the afternoon. There is great joy here!

New Year, New Scope

Who starts a blog during the holidays? Really? Not my best idea. So forgive me for the sparse number of blog posts. However, the last two weeks has given me some time to think about where I want this blog to grow. Watching the interactions between grown children home for the holidays and their aging parents certainly has provided me with some interesting ideas for future columns. Why do we let these relationships become so difficult?

Aging itself is an area I would like to explore. Our western culture seems to be so adverse to it. And yet we can do nothing to stop it, no matter how we try to deceive ourselves. This is why I love the quote by Sophia Loren so much. Defeating age isn’t about the externals, it’s about understanding that the love and creativity you bring to yourself and the world around you is what keeps you young until the moment you take your last breath. But much more on that in the coming months.

new-year-1

Of course I will continue to blog about our beautiful grandchildren near and far and how we can nurture and grow those relationships. We grandparents are indeed the stardust that makes them glow!

I’m still trying to learn this WordPress stuff and hopefully will have it conquered by the end of the month. At least that is the goal. You might even see some new pages and cool things start to show up. Fingers crossed!

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