Mark 12: Beware the Fox-tails!

Sometimes you don’t know what to beware of.


I took the doggie for her walk yesterday afternoon. Time was short so I picked up a lemon that had fallen from a nearby tree and tossed it for her. Sasha loves to chase lemons, except she doesn’t bring them back to me. She prefers to settle down in the grass so she can nibble on it.

After a few tosses, runs, and nibbles, we headed home. I could see some grass in her fur, so made a mental note to brush her when I got home.

Trouble in the night

As soon as I walked inside, I started making dinner. By the time I’d cleaned up, finished at the computer, and tackled my after dinner project, I’d completely forgotten.

Around midnight we were awakened by a flap, flap, flap, jingle, jingle, jingle. Sasha was shaking her head frantically, her ears and choke chain singing duet. I finally got up and checked her ears. What could be bothering her?

Oh, yeah, I never did brush those burrs off her coat. Wonder if that could be the trouble?

Too early the next day…

Between the dog’s flapping and my growing unease, we were both up before dawn. I told Mark about the walk. He asked a few questions, consulted his computer and exclaimed, “Fox-tails! They’re wicked!”

A serious hazard for field dogs, or any dogs in the field, are the hard seed-bearing structures of some kinds of grasses, often called “fox-tails”. These structures have sharp points at one end, and microscopic barbs, so that they easily move in the direction of the point, but not the other way. They “work in”, but they don’t “work out”. They can become imbedded in the hair, especially the paws and ears, and in nostrils and even eyes. As they work their way in, they cause infection, and if not treated can sometimes be fatal.

We called the vet as soon as he opened. He was able to find five or six barbs in each paw, and one in her left ear. When I got home with her, I saw a foxtail on the kitchen floor. “Watch out Sasha!” I ran to get a broom. Half an hour later I’d swept the house, washed out her crate and put her towels through the laundry.

Beware the fox-tails! Who knew?

“Beware” is a word of grace

In Mark 12 we hear Jesus speak words to many different groups of people, sometimes quoting the Scriptures, other times speaking originally. The words vary: parable, rebuke, truth, encouragement, caution. To one he says, “You are quite wrong.” To another, “You are not far from the Kingdom.” But all the words share one thing in common–they speak grace because they give the hearer a chance to change.

One such word is “beware.” In Mark 12:38, Jesus says,

Beware of the scribes…

He warns his disciples about loving reputation, feeding off honor, exploiting privilege. He cautions about hypocrisy, about parading your faith for public notice instead God’s.

Hypocrisy isn’t something I think about very often. It’s a non problem as far as I’m concerned. I’m much more preoccupied with real problems, like cars who cut me off in traffic, running out of money before I run out of month, worrying about tomorrow.

But Jesus’ words woke me up. They made me pay attention. I began to see hypocrisy hiding in my “fur” causing trouble. I could see it in hasty emails promising prayer without follow through. I could see it in glib greetings that were meant to brush people off more than welcome them in. I could see it in quoting Scripture to someone before I’d really listened. I was starting to see it everywhere, just like those fox-tails on the kitchen floor.

What a gracious word “Beware!” is. Now I know to get the broom out and run to the vet. Now I know to get my Bible out and run to Jesus.

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