Why washing feet is now a must-do during Covid-19

Following the CDC guidelines, I have scoured my hands a gazillion times and used Clorox wipes like never before. Along with friends and family, I am aiming to stay vigilant and healthy.

Amidst all the call to strong attentiveness in hygiene, I am stirred by the ancient call of Jesus Christ to his disciples.

“. . . you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

Christ was in the Upper Room that night, just a few hours before he was arrested. He had just washed all of his disciples’ feet, including self-confident Peter. Still today, Christians around the world practice washing one another’s feet. It serves as a powerful picture, a potent reminder of risky love, of moving outside ones’ comfort zone, and of genuine, Christ-like humility.

But here’s the kicker: Jesus never intended it to stop with the mere ceremony and symbolism of loving service. Washing feet should motivate us to very tangibly care for others, even and especially during this current season of crisis.[1]

How to care, how to share

What I’ll share right here is in no way exhaustive. It’s simply a starter list of ideas—something like a toolbox. Please feel free to comment and share your own ideas for “washing feet” during this unique season:

Take good care of yourself. In a Christ-honoring way, love yourself well—so that you can love others effectively. Embedded in Jesus call to love your neighbor is the little clause “as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus expects we will engage healthy, proper self-love to undergird our selfless expressions. For a great article, applicable to more than just pastors, see Tom Nelson’s advice.[2]

When in doubt, DO. Too often under normal conditions, we are all too prone to hold back and second-guess. But ours are no longer normal conditions. So when in doubt, do. Do reach out, do give a call, or send the text. You can simply say, “Hey, how are you today? Just thinking about you and wanting to touch base.”

Listen more than you blab. Some of us, especially those of us with “fixer” tendencies, tend to jump to solve things, dispense wisdom, and otherwise straighten out others’ thinking. Now more than ever, it’s crucial we follow the advice of Jesus’ little brother, sage James: “be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .” (James 1:19).

Yes, distance. Steer clear. But learn to say, “I love you” more. I think in the midst of all the distancing dynamics, one of the potentially dynamic upsides might be that we learn to vocalize more effectively and profusely. Tenderness and vulnerability are born by saying those three little God-like words. They mean so much to hurting, lonely, seeking souls. That includes all of us these days.

Know the basics of sharing Jesus’ loving story. Christ’s lavish grace, forgiveness of sins, abundant peace, and new purpose. Such gifts are life-changing. Watch for and pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with others. You don’t have to force anything, but you can be bold. Get familiar with key Bible truths like John 3:16, Romans 3:10-23, Romans 6:23, Romans 8, and Ephesians 2:8-10. Review how to share your own story of encountering God’s loving salvation. Think in three scenes: my life before encountering Jesus; how I came to know and follow him; what’s new, changing, and growing now in my life.

And when in doubt, do share your story. Simply share how Jesus’ story is changing your story.

What to say, even when you don’t know what to say

Here are several simple but profound things you can say with compassion and confidence:

“Yes, this all seems very hard and dark right now. That’s true. And there is even greater truth. God is still good. Christ Jesus’ light and love are bigger than all of what we are facing.”

“Things seem so uncertain, indeed. And we have the certainty of knowing his love and faithfulness.”

“In times like these, we all feel overwhelmed. That’s a normal reaction, totally typical and appropriate. It’s okay to feel sad and not okay.”

“It’s very important to determine you won’t let yourself stay stuck, endlessly thinking about how you are ‘sad and not okay.’ Tell someone when you need help. Go ahead, open up. Take the risk. Tell a friend or family member how you are feeling. Getting it out there really helps.”

In VERY dark, desperate situations

If someone reaches out to you or otherwise opens up about desperate feelings, listen, listen, listen. Let her/him just talk. Affirm what the person is saying. Don’t rush to correct what he or she is saying. Just listen and affirm. If what is being said sounds extremely dark and headed in the direction of self-harm or violence, ask the person if they will allow you to help them get some further help from someone else who can also help them.[3]

Washing feet with your prayers

The Psalms in the center of the Bible provide a plethora of solid examples of how to express heart-felt cries to God. For a very measured, engaging, emotionally and spiritually responsible approach to being authentic during this crisis time, see Tom Wright’s article in TIME. (Don’t let TIME’s headline throw you. They designed it as clickbait.) Wright actually offers very solid hope via lament.[4]

Pray simple, honest prayers from your heart. And when you have the opportunity, be bold with others. Offer to pray with someone else. During this Covid-19 crisis, every person will likely need another person to be their pastor. Don’t worry or sweat it. You really are allowed to pastor someone else, even if you’re not officially ordained. One of St. Peter’s core teachings, known as the priesthood of all believers, reinforces how important it is for each of us to re-present God to others (1 Peter 2). One way we can do that is by offering to pray—over the phone or in text—on behalf of someone else.

So consider doing this today, perhaps as you wrap up talking with a friend. Say, “Hey, before we go, can I pray for you and for all of us, in light of all that’s going on right now?” Deep breath. It’s highly likely the person will say, “Yes, please!” (So many people are really, really open to such encouragement right now.) And then simply say something like . . .

Lord, we want to thank you that you never leave us. Especially in times like these, we need you. So please help us hold on right now and trust you more than ever. Please supply for us—and others today—all we need. Please bring your comfort, your love, your peace, your healing, and your great big hope. We are trusting you and counting on you. We thank you that you are always good, even when things feel so bad and sad. We thank you that the story is not over. We praise you, Jesus. Amen.

Simply something like that. Put it in your own words. Nothing flowery is necessary.

Okay, this is just the start of ideas for “washing feet” in these desperate days. Please feel free to comment and share. What do you want to add to our toolbox? I have added below a few additional links to helpful, encouraging resources.

Thank you for all the ways you are already loving others, washing your own hands, and washing others’ feet. 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

and https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/neighbor-love-covid-19/

(Certain stat’s are already outdated, but the gist of this TGC article is very solid.)

[2] https://www.madetoflourish.org/resources/pursuing-pastoral-health-in-the-middle-of-a-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR19FWn7_zyAAzctysM24od8VBmUiSNTv594dZ2WCgzzzClJeWTtzNGxd04

[3] https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

[4] https://time.com/5808495/coronavirus-christianity/

Additional helpful resources:

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/10-ways-christians-can-exemplify-faith-and-peace-during-covid-19.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/prayer/powerful-prayers-for-the-coronavirus.html

 

 

 

 

What Can Anyone Really Do About the Coronavirus?

In this past hour, the global death toll passed one thousand.

I am typically a glass half-full kind of person, even to a fault. It’s just how I roll. I lean toward hope-filled optimism.

But sadly, I must confess. In recent days, I have been haunted by anxious thoughts. I find my feelings draped in the shadow of the global epidemic. This morning’s news reported a further increase in cases across China. The weekend’s numbers were a far cry from the decline they had hoped would come with the opening of additional new hospitals.

With cruise ships full of people held at bay and college students recently returned and quarantined, I find myself vacillating. In certain moments, I feel confident the odds are very low that anyone I know, too close to home, will actually be impacted. Then in other moments, I pause and remember: “That’s what everyone thinks until suddenly an illness has become a full-blown pandemic.”

And I am swept into a tsunami of puzzling questions that reach beyond the immediate illness.

What about the psyche and stamina of government leaders who are carrying the burdens of decision-making related to public safety?

How will the researchers who are working on vaccines and treatments hold up under the pressure?

And what must it be like to be one of the masked caregivers, nurses, or doctors to the many thousands affected by the virus?

What will this mean soon for China and the global economy, for thousands upon thousands of workers, corporate executives, and their industries both large and small?

Questions and fears spin, and I wonder. Is there really anything that any one person can do? Then I am struck by the powerful reality that every one of us can pray.

Based on faith in our divine King—whose hands are hands of healing—this one thing can be powerful. We pray to the God who has promised to hear us and answer in response to our faith-filled prayers.

Just today, a global missions leader I highly respect, Craig Kordic, received this list of prayer requests for the Church in Wuhan, China from a pastor serving in the massive city. He shared: Although it’s not one of the strongest Christian provinces in China, it’s estimated that among the 11 million inhabitants of the whole Wuhan Prefecture, @ 470,000 (or 4 percent) are professing Christian believers, including 240,000 house church members and 160,000 members of government-approved Three-Self churches. There are more than 3,000,000 Christians in all of Hubei Province.

* Please pray for the peace of Christ to rule and reign in our hearts, so that we may be a witness to those who are without hope.
* Pray that through this hardship, God’s children will grow nearer to the Almighty and that the Lord will use it to purify our souls and give us many opportunities to proclaim the gospel.
* Please pray for God’s mercy upon Wuhan, and ask Him to bring peace upon our city, province and all of China at this time.
* Please intercede, asking our wonderful Savior to bring peace and healing to those who are afflicted with the illness, to provide supernatural strength and protection for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, and to bless every official at every level, who are working to help the people of Wuhan!
* Please ask the Lord to use this pestilence for His glory, so that when it is over, there will be many more souls born-again into the kingdom of God than have perished.

Will you join me? Will you commit to incorporating these simple, profound heart cries into your prayers, starting tonight and in the days to come?

We can be confident that King Jesus will hear us and bring his mercy, his hands of healing touch, his great wisdom, breakthroughs, and powerful strength.

What can one person really accomplish? Every one of can pray!

 

 

 

If You Dare, A Labor Day Prayer

Throughout the years, I’ve noticed a mischievous thing about Labor Day weekend. If I’m not careful, I miss it. I can get so caught up in the sensational hoopla of picnics, yard work, or a last-hurrah-of-summer getaway that I mindlessly skip over this holiday’s true significance.

Might we dare to think, stir, and move a step or two deeper this year on the meaning and opportunity of Labor Day weekend?

Originally, Labor Day was so much more than a calendar marker for wrap-up of summer, the pool’s closing, and launch of all things flavored pumpkin spice. Call for such a day was the creation of the labor movement and dedicated to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country. The first state bill for Labor Day was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During that year four more states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York—created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in DC and the territories.

I’m afraid we too often forget just how meaningful and significant our daily work is in the scope of God’s original call to humans (Genesis 1-2) and his ongoing redemptive plans (Ephesians 2:8-10). For disciples of Jesus who are seeking to actively grow in holistic faith, there’s a thought-provoking, responsive prayer, originally penned by Jim Cotter and Paul Payton.[1] If we dare to pray this prayer, it might just refocus our outlook and help guide us into an even more robust, holistic perspective on the vital role our work plays in God’s great work in this world. It goes like this:

Leader: Let the sowers of seed bless you, great God, the gardeners and farmers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the fishers and foresters bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the bread from grain bless you, great God, the wine from the grape sing your praise.

Everyone: May the transformations from cooks bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the spinners and weavers bless you, great God, the designers of clothes sing your praise.

Everyone: May the salesmen and retailers bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sounds and silences of music bless you, great God, the great composers sing your praise.

Everyone: May the improvisers of jazz bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the software and civil engineers bless you, great God, the architects sing your praise.

Everyone: May the pastors and clergy bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the marketers and advertisers bless you, great God, the entrepreneurs sing your praise.

Everyone: May the attorneys and judges bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the educators bless you, great God, the academics and authors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the doctors and nurses bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Leader: Let the sculptor and scientists bless you, great God, the business owners and janitors sing your praise.

Everyone: May the artists and baristas bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Amen.

We’ve prayed this congregational, responsive prayer in our church’s worship services. Might you dare to pray it personally, share it with friends, and even potentially share it in your congregation?

[1]Jim Cotter and Paul Payton. Out of the Silence . . . Prayer’s Daily Round (with changes by Mark Mohrlang and adapted here for congregational responsive prayer).

Work’s Agony and Ecstasy—Remembering Robin Williams

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“Nano nano.” As a fourth grader, I tried to spread my fingers just like Mork from Ork in order to bid adieu to friends at school. (my right hand, no problem; left hand, I still can’t do it.)

We are awash in a sea of emotions at the stunning news of Williams’ suicide. Like so many funny men, the work of his early years was hysterical and at points raucously crude—symptomatic no doubt of youthful immaturity. As his body of work grew, so did his sophistication, choosiness of roles, and thoughtfulness of his characters. Still always treating us to jovial faces and good-like-medicine laughter, his work became more and more purposeful. Complexity of characters and message are profound in Patch Adams and Dead Poets Society. “O Captain, my Captain!” “Carpe diem! Seize the day, boys.”

So we longingly ask, what goes wrong? How does such a hilarious guy of stardom fall so far emotionally that he chooses to exit? The forensics and toxicology are still being completed. It is well documented that he battled both depression and addiction. Friends have been interviewed, and they confirm that he was struggling, albeit with a seemingly strong support system enfolding him.

None of us, especially those of us with deeply religio-spiritual backgrounds, should rush to hand out diagnoses and snap judgments. Let’s not forget, it was not long ago that Rick Warren’s family faced the tragic loss of their son. Let’s not forget, so many of our extended families have experienced first-hand the ravages of mental illness and suicide—including my own cousin just a few years back.

What can we say? Because God designed us for integrated living, we must resist the urge to compartmentalize, thinking that our mental-emotional health is incidental, a sidebar. If you are struggling with depression and addiction, reach out for hope and help, both to Christ through spiritual mentors and to health professionals—please do it NOW!

What else can we say? Because God wants us to work as his coworkers, in his image (Genesis 1:26-28), we need to balance life better. Work hard, yes, but resist defining our own identities solely on our work success. Here’s where our faith, a deeper trust, has to intersect with our creative good works, pre-ordained by our Maker (Saint Paul, Ephesians 2:8-10). Will we trust him? Don’t let your own identity become so wrapped up with your work outcomes that you descend into the abyss, especially in those seasons when your work is not producing a remarkably fruitful crop. You are so much more than the sum total of your portfolio!

I recently read Irving Stone’s classic biographical novel of Michelangelo.[1] We readily applaud the sculptor-painter’s amazing achievements, but we often fail to recognize the deep agony, work frustration, and overall despondency he faced with each artistic endeavor.

What hope can we find in our own dark moments, when work is less than stellar, when life seems to rot, and we hear those voices from the shadows? Let’s be real real. Most of us are moved by Robin’s tragic story because the psychological tremors hit too close to home, echoing into the depth of our own souls, homes, and workplaces. We all have our own moments and voices that whisper diabolical thoughts in the face of our agony.

Courageously recall, there is indeed an unseen battle. Some will accuse me of over-simplifying, but we dare not miss the essential power of prayer in putting on God’s protective armor (Saint Paul, Ephesians 6:10-20). The biblical leader of workers, master wall builder, Nehemiah, handled his own opposition from critics, the taunting voices, would-be distractions, and impending despair. He replied, “I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down . . .” And then he passionately prayed, “Strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6)

C. Neal Johnson, calling for vigilance in spiritual warfare related to our work-a-day business, asserts:

“There is also a form of prayer called inner healing prayer (IHP). It is an approach to prayer in which an individual can identify and resolve deep-seated emotional issues that have plagued his or her attempts at healthy living . . . Both research data and anecdotal testimonies evidence significant long-term, deep, inner healing as a result . . . Training in how to conduct IHP is highly recommended in order to be effective and to avoid unscriptural activities.”[2]

Let us pray fervently for the Williams’ family and close friends, for peace and strength, hope and comfort. Let us pray for one another, for deep healing in our daily work’s agony and ecstasy.

And by all means, Carpe diem. With Christ’s strength and for his glory, let us make our lives extraordinary!

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[1]Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo. (Doubleday and Company, 1961).

[2]C. Neal Johnson, Business As Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice. (IVP, 2009), 450-51.