Wash Their Feet

For the past twelve weeks, we have dealt with three major losses. First, my husband’s father passed away, then a few weeks later, my mother, and then last week, we buried my husband’s mother. All in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. A few days ago, I lifted my head just a bit out of the fog of grief, only to discover that the world was on fire. It was burning with an age-old enemy of racial discord, which should have been resolved and healed decades ago.

There have been many times I have felt helpless and defeated concerning this issue.

Why hasn’t it changed?

Why does this issue seems to resurface over and over?

Why can’t we learn?

Why can’t we love?

In 2016, I was connected to Juanita G. Floyd through a mutual friend, and soon learned of her beautiful story. In 1969, she was the only black girl in her second grade class during the transitional year of integration. Her mother bravely prepared her for her new school in creative ways, instilling in her a solid knowledge of who she was and Whose she was. With a message of faith, forgiveness, and friendship, we co-authored an inspirational children’s book called Summer of 1969. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I think you would be blessed to read this beautiful story of racial reconciliation. You can check it out here.

The point of this post is not to tell you about a book we have written. The point of this post is to tell you what I learned through the process. Somewhere along the way, we no longer were a white woman and a black woman with a common goal. Instead, we became sisters with a shared mission. Sure, we were different in many ways. But our shared faith bound us together in unity and friendship.

On the Sunday before the book was released, I was sitting in church, silently praying for our project. Our pastor had led us through a time of silent prayer where we asked God to show us His way and His path for our lives. As I was praying, I suddenly had a thought in my head that repeated like a broken record.

Wash her feet.

Wash her feet.

Wait, what? You want me to wash Juanita’s feet? I thought nervously.

I was familiar with the biblical concept of washing the feet of another, just as Jesus did, but I had rarely participated in such a thing.

Wash her feet.

The thought persisted until I finally prayed, “Okay, Lord, I’ll wash her feet. Even if she thinks I’m crazy.”

And as my imagination took me down the trail of what that would look like, very clearly words poured into my head—words I knew I must say.

The following Tuesday we were schedule to meet together to pray before the release of the book. Just before she arrived I gathered my grandmother’s bowl and a clean towel. I chose this particular bowl for two reasons: 1.) My grandmother truly was the most loving person I have ever known, and 2.) I knew the bowl was representative of many generations.

After we prayed, I gathered my nerve and told Juanita of my experience in church. And she graciously allowed me to wash her feet. As I began to dry her feet, I looked up with tears in my eyes and spoke the words that the Lord had laid on my heart:  “Juanita, I am so sorry for any wrong or unkind thing that people that look like me have done to people who look like you.”

Juanita smiled and said, “I forgive.”

To my white friends, we must wash our black friends’ feet. That may not be a literal act, but we must find some way to wash their feet.

But I’m not mean, we think. 

But I’m very accepting, we think.

But I’m not racist, we think.

Wash their feet. Ask forgiveness for generations of wrong doing.

I never intended on sharing this story with anyone. It was a private moment between two sisters who look nothing alike. But Juanita has given me permission to share it because both of us desire that one day things will be different. That one day change will be permanent. That one day we will all value each other as the magnificent creation we each are—all made in the image of God.

Matthew 5:23-24

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

 

 


Today is the Day

Today is the Day.

With the President’s dire report yesterday of the possibility of up to 240,000 deaths in the coming weeks, I wanted to put down the thoughts spinning in my head today. These thoughts may seem conflicting but they actually are both as true as true can be. On the one hand, I want to shout, “NO! In Jesus’ Name, No! We will not receive this. We reject this plague from the enemy and we send it far away from us in Jesus’ Name.” You see, I believe that God, through Jesus Christ, has given us authority over evil. Jesus told us in Mark 10:

19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you

This verse always reminds me of the sweet elderly man who was the crossing guard at Carver Elementary when my older kids were young. I remember watching him one day as he hobbled out to the center of the street, dressed in his orange vest, and held up what looked to be a frail arm. His outstretched arm and his planted feet (with weak knees, I might add) was in reality no match for the line of cars and SUVs before him. And yet, every car stopped. What could have trampled over him in a second, did not. And why is that? Surely, it was not because the drivers were all patient, perfect people. No, the reason was because he, as weak as he seemed, had the authority.

Believers, we must stand up and fight—stand up on our knees. We must pray and believe that God can do something about this. We must fight for our trust in Him. And that is not easy when there is death and destruction around us; when there is a dark cloud of the unknown hovering over us. And there is absolutely nowhere to run from it because it is everywhere, all over the world.

Lest I sound too “doom and gloom”, we need to see the second part of this verse. You see, Jesus was pleased that disciples had exerted their authority. But he also gave them direction in where their focus should be.

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The true celebration is not the authority that God gives us, but rather the salvation that He gives us through His Son, Jesus. Jesus defeated sin and death forever for us who believe. And no virus can ever take that away from us. In that we can celebrate as we stand in the authority given to us and do our part to pray this pandemic away. So, I must ask: Do you know Him? Have you surrendered to Him? Is He not only your Savior, is He your Lord?

As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

                                                                                    Hebrews 3:15

My husband and I have taught a weekly Bible Study for high school students for the past six years. For two weeks before Spring Break, I felt this urge to repeat the saving truth of the Gospel to them. These are good kids, Christian kids. They knew the way of salvation, and yet, I felt this prompting to tell them, “Do not wait to secure your relationship with the Lord, for you never know what is coming in the near future.” I told them of an account by the famous preacher, Peter Marshall. Marshall had been invited to preach at the United States Naval Academy on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.  He prepared an encouraging talk, but was bothered by a nagging feeling that he had prepared the wrong message. Encouraged by the chaplain to speak whatever God had laid on his heart, he put his prepared message aside and preached to the young soldiers the message of Today—today is the day for salvation; do not wait. He quoted James, 4:14, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

As he was driving home from this event, he heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. The young men who heard his message of Today were immediately sent off to fight in World War II. And many did not return.

The next week, I repeated this story, and told the youth that I had realized that I had told them not to wait to secure their relationship with the Lord, but I had not explained how to do that. I said, “It is as simple as A-B-C. A: Admit. Admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation. B: Believe. Believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Believe that He died as a sacrifice for our sins and rose again in victory. Believe that He is who He said He is and that He can save us. And C: Confess. Confess with your mouth. Confess to another person that you have made a commitment to Christ. Speak up.”

That was the last time we met with those youth. We expected that there would only be a week’s break, and now we don’t know when we can meet again. I believe that prompting was from the Lord for all of us, even if we already know the Lord. Is there any part of our hearts that we are holding back from the Lord? Is there any unfinished business in your spiritual life? Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Today is the day.

Today is the day. Today is the day to secure your relationship with the Lord. And then, today is the day to stand up in the authority God has given His followers—and pray this virus away.

 

PS  Below is the full message that Peter Marshall preached that day in 1941.

James, 4th chapter, 14th verse, “For what is your life. It is even a vapor that appeareth for awhile, then vanisheth away.”

What a queer thing for James to say?  It’s a strange statement to find in the New Testament, is it not?  Is he being cynical?  Is he joking?

Well, hardly.

If you look at the context in which this statement appears, you will see that James is speaking to those who make great assumptions as to the future, with never a thought of the contingency of life itself.  He’s addressing himself to those who never think of God, and who act and live as though they had a mortgage on time; those who give no thought to the fact that they may never see tomorrow; those who act as though they had a long lease on life; as though they had immunity somehow; as though that cold clammy hand of the dread messenger would never touch their hearts.

Yet, death inevitably comes to the king in his palace, the beggar by the roadside, the animal in his hole.

But what is death?  Is it to be blown out, like a candle in the wind?  Is it a shivering void in which there is nothing that lives?  Is is a cold space into which we are launched to be evaporated, or to disappear?  Are we to believe that a half-mad eternal humorist tossed the worlds aloft and left their destiny to chance?  That a man’s life is the development of a nameless vagrancy?  That a hole in the ground six feet deep is his final heritage?  There are a thousand insane things easier to believe than these!  How can we believe that human personality will not survive when One who went into the grave and beyond came back to say, “Whosoever believeth in me shalt not perish, but have eternal life.”

In a house of which I know, a little boy, the only son, was ill of an incurable disease.  Month after month the mother had tenderly read to him, nursed him, and played with him; hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis.  But as the weeks went by and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand the meaning of the term “death”–and he too knew that soon he was to die.

One day, the mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their deaths.  As she closed the book, the boy lay silent for a moment, then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart.

“Mother, what is it like to die?  Mother, does it hurt?

Quickly, tears sprang to her eyes and she fled into the kitchen, supposedly to tend to something on the stove.  She knew it was a question with deep significance.  She knew it must be answered.  She leaned for an instant against the kitchen door and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would not let her break down in front of the boy; that he would tell her what to say.

And the Lord did tell her.

Immediately, she knew how to explain it to him.  “Kenneth,” she said, as she returned to his room, “you remember how, when you were a little boy you would play so hard all day that when night came you were too tired even to undress and would tumble into your mother’s bed and fall asleep.  In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own room in your own bed.  You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you.  Your daddy had come with big strong arms and carried you to your own room.  Kenneth, death is like that.  We just wake up one morning to find ourselves in the other room; our own room where we belong, because the Lord Jesus has loved us.”

The lad’s shinning, trusting face, looking up into hers, told her that there would be no more fear; only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.  He never questioned again, and several weeks later, he fell asleep just as she had said.  That is what death is like.

Yet, in the life beyond, the question inevitably comes, “with what body do we move?”

Certainly not with such a body as ours is today!

Not with rickets or a club foot!

Not with twisted spine or withered arm!

Not with calloused hands or wrinkled brow!

Not with a heart filled with the broken glass of vanquished dreams!

Not with the drunkard’s thirst, like the fires of hell!

Nor the sensualist’s lust, like gnawing worms!

Not with the bitter memories of a son’s crime or a daughter’s shame!

Not with the scar across the throat that a frenzied maniac made!

No!

Not with them do we make our entrance upon that larger stage.  We rise, not clothed again in dying clay; not garbed once more with the faded garments of mortal flesh; but with the shining mercy of God.

If the Bible is true, and Christ has not deceived us, there awaits beyond the curtain of life that will never end, a life of reunion with loved ones, who, like ourselves, have trusted in the very presence of God.  There shall be no more pain; no more sorrow; nor tears; nor parting; nor death–anymore.  Age shall not weary, nor the years condemn.  We shall enter into that for which we were created.  It shall be the journey’s end for the heart and all its hopes.  It shall be the end of the rainbow for the child explorers of God.  We have His promise for that.

Let us pray.

Our father’s God, to Thee who are the author of our liberty, and under whom we have our freedom, we say our prayer.  Make us ever mindful that we are the heirs of a great heritage, and the trustees of priceless things, lest we forget the price that was paid for them–or the cost that may yet have to be met to keep them.  Make us strong, O God, in conviction with the insight of our perilous times and in the courage for our testing.

Amen.


I Had A Good Cry Today

I had a good cry today.

I cried for our city, our state, our country, our world.

I cried for those COVID-19 patients that don’t know how this will all play out. Will they see their spouse again? Will they hug their kids again? Or will they slip from this world to the next, alone in quarantine?

I cried for high school seniors who are missing those last weeks which are supposed to be the crowning glory of their 12 years of schooling.

I cried for those athletes who worked so hard to train and prepare, only to have their season snatched away from them.

I cried for those grandparents secluded in nursing homes or even in their own homes, unable to spend time with their kids and grandkids.

I cried for all the doctors and nurses who are bravely giving care and comfort to scared, sick people, and who are coming home exhausted, terrified they are bringing the virus to their families.

I cried for the families of the medical community (including myself), who are confused about how to “socially distance” from their own spouses and fathers/mothers, because they may have been unknowingly exposed.

I cried for workers whose jobs are deemed “essential” and are still out in public, unable to shelter in place. And then I cried for all the other workers who are at home, because they can’t work. I can only imagine the fear they have. How they will pay their bills? How they will take care of their families? How will they even buy groceries to survive?

I had a good cry today.

I cried for our leaders in every arena who are trying to do the best they know how against an enemy that they have never known. There is no precedence for the decisions they have to make. And yet they are endlessly criticized and questioned. Truly, I am so very thankful I don’t have their job.

I cried because I miss normal. Don’t you miss normal?

And after I had a good cry, I reached up to wipe my tears away and caught myself just before I touched my face. Really? I have to be afraid of touching my own face? Lord, help us all!

But after I cried, I prayed. I worshipped. I remembered that all of God’s promises are yes and amen. I remembered that He will never leave us nor forsake us. I remembered that He is able to keep us from falling. I remembered that He will cause all things to work for our good, according to His purpose for our lives.

After I cried, I fixed a big lunch for my 17-year-old son. And I realized that my prayer to have more time and conversation with him during this last year and a half at home had been answered. Wanna ask me a question about William Blake’s poetry? I know a lot more than I did this time last week.

After I cried, I taught math to my little kids and saw their patience with me as they showed me how to do. And then we read together. I had forgotten how fun a pirate story is. And then I remembered how grateful I am for teachers who do this every day.

After I cried, my husband and I talked about the future, when all of this is over. How will it change us? What will we do differently? I want to learn from this, to grow from this. I want these uncertain days to grow my dependence upon the Only One who is certain.

And you know what? God has a lot to say about those times when we just need to have a good cry.  Listen to His own words:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

                                                                        Revelations 21:4.

 

You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. 

You have recorded each one in your book.

                                                                        Psalm 56:8

 

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

                                                                        Psalm 30:5

 

This time will end. Things will get back to normal. Though our lives have hit an unusual and unprecedented pause button, they will eventually resume. But even as we acknowledge this great truth, it is okay to have a good cry every now and then.


My Two-Cents

I can’t believe I am even jumping in on this conversation. There is such a wide range of opinions regarding the Corona Virus pandemic. There is criticism for those who have panicked and criticism for those who are living their normal lives. There is criticism for those who have prepared and for those who have blown it off as media hype. I hope I fall somewhere in the middle.

I have extra toilet paper. There. I said it. I just keep thinking that if all my kids end up coming home, that is a lot of… well, let’s just say we will need it. I also have extra cleaning supplies. And canned goods. You see, ever since Y2K I have believed in a well-stocked pantry, cause you just never know. And yes, nothing happened with Y2K, and no one (including me) wanted to admit they bought flashlights and canned goods. But this is not Y2K—it’s not some possibility that might happen. This is a reality. Maybe it won’t be bad in our area—wouldn’t that be a mercy? That is what we hope and pray for. But still, there is such a thing as COVID-19 and it can be bad—very bad for some people. I think everything we do should be reflective of our love for God and our love for others. Those are the two greatest commandments, after all.

So, let’s take the first and most important commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. So what does that look like in the crazy days we are living in? First of all, it means we pray. And we don’t pray as one with no hope. We pray acknowledging that He loves us. As I am thinking of my kids when I prepare, even more so, He thinks of us. He has given us every assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will be faithful to us today and tomorrow. Say that aloud three times every day. Announce and declare that you believe that, even if your mind secretly thinks otherwise. He will not abandon His children any more than I would abandon mine. It’s who He is. Our Father, Abba, Daddy.

We love God by trusting in Him. We don’t let our hearts be filled with fear. We tell that fear to flee because our God is bigger. We cast down imaginations and destroy speculations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

We love God by absorbing His Word as our reality. Let me repeat that. His Word is our reality. His word will not return void, but will accomplish that for which it is sent. Meditate on His Word day and night. Read His Word more than you read the latest COVID-19 reports. (By the way, I am preaching to the choir on this one.) Meditate on the following scriptures day and night. Pray them for yourself and your family, your city, state, country, world.

 

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.

                                    Psalm 91:1-7

 

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.

                                    Isaiah 26:13

 

Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

                                                                        2 Corinthians 10:3-5

 

no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

                                                Isaiah 54:17

 

Now, let’s take the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. Those of us who have extra toilet paper, be prepared. God may want us to share it with our neighbors. God may want us to give some of that extra food to those who depend on school lunches for their daily food. God may want us to be generous and share and trust that He is able to multiply our food (and toilet paper), just as Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves—for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Love your neighbor as yourself. No one wants to get sick. Even if you think you are young and healthy and could fight off the Corona virus like a champ, there are others who can’t. I have a bit of a unique take on this. My husband is a doctor and there is a good chance he will come into contact with COVID-19—as will every other doctor, nurse, and medical assistant—even the receptionist at the doctor’s office. And then he comes home. At what point do we keep our distance and for how long?

I have family members who have Type 1 diabetes. They are in “that group” of those who are more susceptible. My mother is on hospice with advanced pulmonary fibrosis. One of my son’s best friend’s has cystic fibrosis. My mother-in-law is in an assisted living home and she just buried her husband of 58 years. She certainly doesn’t need to deal with a potentially deadly illness on top of the grief. Do you see the domino effect of what could happen if we don’t love others? If we are flippant about the risks, we may be just fine. But we may pass it on to others who will not be just fine. So, maybe think of this time of social distancing as a way to love your neighbor as yourself.

And I can think of many more good things that could come of just a few weeks of pressing the pause button on regular life. Maybe we can rest for a change. Maybe we can get that garage cleaned out, that board game played with our kids, that book read that we have been wanting to make time for. (I have a good suggestion for you on that one! #TapCodeBook) This is actually an opportunity to spend time talking to our teenagers, plan our garden, write in our journal, call that friend we haven’t connected with in a while, read our Bibles more than just the quick morning fix.

So order that take-out food, have those groceries delivered (and don’t forget those locally owned stores and businesses!). Stay home for just a little while. Don’t put the Lord your God to a foolish test, as Jesus said. Embrace this as a unique opportunity to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Trust Him, pray, believe, declare the truth of the scriptures, take the authority over the enemy that is ours in Christ Jesus. Oh yea, and wash your hands!


Thanks for ALL Your Support!

The launch of Tap Code has been extraordinary. Smitty and Louise have traveled the country, had many interviews in radio and television, and visited many Air Force Bases. I am thrilled that the world is getting to know this amazing couple!

We have hit #1 spots in several categories on Amazon, landed a spot on Apples Top 10 Books People Are Talking About, and have had the support of local friends, family, and even strangers. I am so happy to hear that others are being inspired and touched by Smitty and Louise’s story! If you could do us a huge favor and write a review on Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes and Nobel, Goodreads, Target, Walmart, or any online store which carries our book, it would be greatly appreciated!

But today, I wanted to give a shout out to our local supporters! Reed’s bookstore has supported us with a huge turnout for our book signing last weekend!

Next week, we will be in Oxford for a book signing at SquareBooks on Tuesday at 5:30. All you Ole Miss fans please come out and meet Smitty and Louise! They are true American heroes! You can order the book online and in the store.

We SO appreciate these independent bookstores! They provide an atmosphere of community and expertise, which is so missing in today’s world! Please take a look at both of their websites and order a signed copy today! #shoplocal

I will try to keep you posted about other opportunities to meet Smitty and Louise! They will bless you so much!

https://www.indiebound.org/

https://www.squarebooks.com/event/carlyle-s-harri

https://shop.reedsms.com/products/tap-code-by-carlyle-s-harris-sara-w-berrys-tap-code