Many ways to wash feet, many ways to serve

many ways to wash feet and serve othersI must have been about 6 or 7 the first time I remember sitting in on our church’s communion service. It was after the official Sunday morning service, after most of the casual visitors had left to see to their pot roasts, when the men slipped off their socks and the women pushed their dress shoes under the pew.

By the time our pastor began to break the bread, a sacred hush had fallen. When the grape juice passed in its simple water glass, all you could hear was the reminder: Do this in remembrance of me.

Then, one-by-one they knelt next to each other and washed their neighbor’s feet. The man who had studied his Bible for decades washed the feet of Daddy, who was new to faith. The woman who owned hundreds of acres knelt before someone just scraping by at the end of the month. There, with the towel and the basin, all those differences washed away.

And there was communion.

All these years later, I still count it as one of the holiest moments of my life – a moment where I saw God’s love for all of us. While I can never recreate that memory, there are many ways to wash feet, many ways to serve one another. Many ways to do this in remembrance.

First, though, we must sit close enough to our neighbor to know her needs, so when she whispers that her very best friend is dying of cancer we can hear her above the din of our own busyness.

When we sit knee to knee, maybe we’ll hear a single dad needs someone to babysit or a friend is overwhelmed and could use help preparing his taxes. Maybe we’ll add a few extra tomato plants to share with an aunt whose arthritis makes gardening almost impossible.

Maybe we’ll know who to add to our prayer lists – and we’ll have people who are willing to pray for us. People willing to wash the dust from our feet. People willing to break bread with us in church and at home and at the ball field. People willing to remember God’s love in the everyday, in the mundane and in crisis.

People willing to have communion.

Looking for God? Let's find him together

#seeGodA small group of us plans to spend the weeks leading up to Easter searching for God and taking snapshots of his workmanship.

Most of us are not photographers, just souls with cameras and a willingness to see Lent differently this year. We hope this project reminds us that we are walking on holy ground — all of it created by a loving God.

Would you like to join us? If so, feel free to post your own glimpses of God on the Simply Faithful Facebook page. We’ll be using #seeGod on Twitter and Instagram to make it easier for everyone to participate.

May you find God everywhere this season,



40 ways to help your family prepare for Easter

IMG_2658Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on activities that help you prepare spiritually for Easter.  Check back tomorrow for part 2!

When it comes to spiritual matters, I often show up without my homework done.

I arrive at church expecting that God will meet me there in the pew with a gift bag of enlightenment, good feelings and blessings. Nevermind that 10 minutes earlier I was begging and bribing my family to hurry up to get there on time – not exactly creating an environment that welcomes stillness or reflection or prayer.

I’m the same way about holidays, too. I might spend hours making invitations by hand, cleaning and cooking, only to forget to welcome God to the celebration. But I was determined to change that, so a couple of years ago my family started a list of things to do every day during Lent.



The list (everything from starting seedlings for neighbors to coloring pictures for people in nursing homes) was cut in strips and put in plastic Easter eggs for my boys to open.

It seemed simple and straight forward – until God got involved.

Our oldest son wanted to help with an Easter egg hunt at Community Lutheran Ministry in Rochester, NY. He donated the $26 in his charity fund but when aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins heard about it, the fund swelled to $250. By the time Easter rolled around, he had helped put together the hunt and 100 Easter baskets for kids in one of the toughest parts of Rochester.


When it was time to put together a care package for a young friend of ours in foster care, it was Benjamin, our then 3-year-old, who was available to go shopping with me. For an hour we wandered through the store talking about what would make Deniese smile. What I thought was a bit beyond him, he fully grasped.

Oh, don’t misunderstand. We failed miserably some days. In fact, coughs and drippy noses kept us from cooking extra meals for the freezer. We wanted to share meals when friends suffered losses or were ill, but we didn’t want to share germs.

Those eggs, and a few others, were left unopened until Easter morning when I turned them over to the boys to play with. It bothered me that I hadn’t done everything, but then I did something rare for me. I forgave myself quickly.

We had done our homework and our hearts were ready for Easter.


Would you like a glimpse at our list, so you can get ideas for your own? 

Here are the basics: We chose 40 activities and prayer requests. Some of the activities repeat, and some are really steps toward a larger project because we didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves – or our budget.

Some tips: I numbered the eggs so that the more time-consuming projects would fall on the weekends. I also bought supplies for all of the activities before Lent so I’d have what I needed on-hand, even if someone grabbed the wrong egg.

Our list:

1. We’ll watch a DVD from Water for Sudan. (You can learn about Salva Dut and his nonprofit on YouTube.)

2. A friend requested prayer for her daughter who is starting a business. We’ll pray for her to have wisdom and favor.

3. Our boys will draw pictures and we’ll send them to a nursing facility to brighten someone’s room.

4. We’d like to have meals on hand to share with friends who are going through medical situations or facing other challenges. We’ll make an extra meal today and freeze it.

5. Community Lutheran Ministry in Rochester, NY, is collecting pennies to support its after-school program and its summer camp. We’ll start a penny jar at our house.

6. We’ll skip some TV time and instead read books to each other.

7. We’ll find 40 things that our family can give away or throw away.

8. It’s our dog’s birthday, so she will get an extra long walk with the whole family.

9. We’ll thank God for five people or things.

10. We’ll start seedlings to share with neighbors.

11. Food pantries can always use help. We’ll see what we have to donate.

12. A friend requested that we pray for people to “truly worship God.”

13.  We’ll send a card to encourage or thank someone.

14. My family will de-clutter another 40 items.

15. Working together, we’ll turn scrap fabric into cloth napkins.

16. We’ll go to bargain stores and see how many books we can afford to buy. We’ll put them in Easter baskets for kids in need.

17. We’ll pray for someone at work.

18. We’ll send a card to someone – a teacher, a mentor, a minister – who inspired us.

19. We’ll read books to each other.

20. I’ve always liked the idea of donating “birthday bags” to a food pantry. We’ll include a cake mix, candles and other goodies to help people celebrate.

21. I’ll play Monopoly with the boys. I hate that game, but they love it.

22. We’ll make another meal for the freezer.

23. A friend requested prayer for her mother, who is burdened with health and financial worries.

24. We’ll do something kind. And we’ll do it secretly.

25. Just once, when we could complain, we won’t.

26. We’ll pray for someone at church.

27. We’ll invite friends to our home for dinner. We haven’t done that as often as we should.

28. Today, we’ll put together an Easter care package for a dear friend in foster care. (Children Awaiting Parents always knows of kids who could use a little surprise. Call (585) 232-5110.)

29. We’ll send an unexpected card or note to a loved one.

30. Again, we’ll de-clutter 40 items.

31. At dinner, we’ll write something we love about each member of our family.

32. We’ll pray for someone at school.

33. The egg we open today will be empty. We’ll talk about Jesus’ tomb being empty.

34. We’ll invite family over for brunch for no particular reason except that we like them.

35. It’s our eighth wedding anniversary. We’ll pray for relationships to be strengthened.

36. We’ll look through photo albums and tell family stories.

37. Just for today, we’ll trade household chores so we can practice looking at things from another person’s perspective.

38. We’ll skip complaining three times today.

39. We’ll invite friends over to decorate Easter cookies.

40. We’ll help with an Easter egg hunt at Community Lutheran.

Day 25: Hope and joy sometimes come from the mourning

Tanya photoYou know that very first journal page? The one where I told you about my friend Tanya Herrold and asked you to pray for her dad, who was waiting on a liver transplant? Well, read on my friends! Tanya has provided us with an update AND with a new journal page…

I have told this story at least 1000 times to anyone who would listen yet this is the first time I am putting it on “paper.” Papa contracted Hepatitis C but was never diagnosed until he donated blood for the first time. Within a couple of months of the diagnosis, he was in end stage liver failure. SCARY!!! Well, none of us were sure what that meant so when they asked him if he wanted to be put on the transplant list, he said “no.” He got really sick one time and decided he wanted to live and wanted an opportunity to receive a new liver so he asked to be placed on the list.

I am going to spare you the details of how the list works. It can be tedious and I realize not everyone is as interested as I am in the details. To give you perspective, this was all in 2008. At times we thought a call may never come. One very snowy day in 2012 he called and said “They’re transplanting me!” (I love the way he said it!) So we rushed around, called everyone and spent the day at the hospital about 15 hours after the initial call, we were told the liver was not good for transplant. This was tough on everyone. We ran the gamut of emotions that day. We were really shocked when about two months later there was another offer made to him. We tried to contain our excitement this time. That was until the anesthesiologists came in and said “We are 15 minutes away, we are just waiting on the last biopsy result.” We were full of hope! Thirty minutes later a Resident came in and explained the liver was not good for transplant. Our hopes were squashed! Papa said “There will never be a liver.” I encouraged him and prayed that there would be. We lived our lives waiting for phone calls – whether it was to say there was a liver or for my mom to call to say he was not well and she needed help getting him to the hospital – every time the phone rang our hearts stopped.

Well on February 15 at 5 p.m. we received another call, there was a liver. We kept our emotions intact. That is not an easy thing to do for 12 hours. The anesthesiologists came in and said “we are waiting on the final biopsy results, we should know in 15 minutes.” My heart sank. I willed the phone to ring, I paced, I cried a bit and then I gave it to God. I did the same thing three days earlier, I told God I could no longer handle the worry, stress or frustration and I asked Him to handle it. I sat in a chair in a hospital room full of family all feeling the same way – knowing this may be our last few minutes of hope – and I relaxed knowing God’s timing is perfect. The doctors came in and explained it was a go! More than 12 hours after receiving the initial call, he was going into the O.R. I was so full of joy it was coming out of my eyes. I was able to pray with everyone and I asked the doctors if they wanted to join us – they did!

Hope Journal Page.2I prayed for the family of the donor. See, organ donation is a personal choice and I respect your decision regardless. However, this family will always be heroes in my eyes. They made the decision to donate the organs of their 20 year old family member. They provided hope and joy for nearly 50 people all in the midst of their mourning. I cannot imagine what that took. You see, I am an organ donor, my family knows and they do not have to make that decision when I pass but I don’t know this persons story and I pray for their family regularly.

My daughter hugged one of the surgeons and told them “Please take care of my papa.” She was able to thank that same surgeon 13.5 hours later when he came to tell us the surgery was a success. She then told the surgeon “No one should ever have to wait this long.”

Papa is doing well since his transplant. The liver was working and making bile before he left the O.R. He has had some setbacks which is to be expected but overall he is making progress and we are thankful for each and every step forward. He is still in the hospital and we do not know when he will be ready to come home but they are making sure he is on the right path. We could not be more thankful to our heroes, for without them we would not have the hope of many more years with Papa.

I won’t bore you with statistics and how organ donations work but please know the need is real. If you are interested in learning more, looking at how many people await organs or if you want to sign up to be an organ donor – please consider visiting one of the websites below. I believe it is about education and conversation. I do not believe this decision should have to be made at the DMV, ICU or the Emergency Room.

  • Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network –
  • Donate Life NYS –
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services –

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 – The verse that got me through.

To download today’s free journal page, just click here.

P.S. Dear readers, Tanya’s dad came home from the hospital yesterday! So thankful!

Day 24: Hope is a prayer throughout all time

I love the kind of letters that come in my mailbox, and this one — this typewritten one from Mary Holley — is so  worth sharing. 

Mary Holley letter

February 4, 2013

Dear Ms. Gregory,

What is Hope? you asked readers of your D&C column of January 14, 2013. A huge challenge, especially after daily negative media reports on the “fiscal cliff” fiasco, the “Sequester” unknown, little Ethan (whose name means Power, Strength) snatched from his friends and family, fate still in limbo. These but a few examples of our turbulent times. Yes, indeed, Hope seems far away. But it must be around here somewhere!

I am quite sure Hope is a survivor. Part of the human psyche since History’s dawn. And a trail-blazer. Hope keeps us going in spite of all natural or man-made disasters. Regardless of disappointment, tragedy, loss.

Hope is good news we look for and sometimes find in unexpected places. Hope is seeing buds of spring clinging fast to frozen trees in winter. Hope is shining in the promise of every newborn baby child.

Hope is a wishing star. A double rainbow. Light in darkness. Heart-warming spark kindling ideas blazing-bright. Hope energizes us to build tomorrow’s dreams today. Hope is that mighty invisible Force moving us on even if we are plodding… even when we’re lost.

Hope is a blessing and gift for every human heart. Ours to keep or give away so freely with our smile, our friendly greeting, just the right words or a comforting embrace. And we still have that gift in good supply!

Hope is a prayer throughout all Time, no matter what or why we believe. Hope lifts us up, lightens our burdens, encourages our hearts, inspires our purpose. Lets us rejoice with praise and thanks-giving.

And so much more… this miracle called Hope!

With many wishes for Good Cheer and Lots of Hope!


Mary Holley

Day 23: When you want to make hope tangible

watercolor cross1

I like how Ann Voskamp calls it a visible parable… how her mix of moss and dirt and stones tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection. I like how other writers — other people of faith — take sticks from the yard, fashion them into crosses and drape the purple of Lent around the middle cross to symbolize the one where our Jesus died.

The Internet is full of ideas for resurrection gardens, of Easter projects that ask us to make hope tangible.

watercolor cross3A few days ago my bunch sat around the kitchen table and made watercolor crosses. All of us, from 2 to 41, dipped the brush into water and then swirled the color. We used tape to map out the cross, and in the end, only the cross was left white. All that chaos of color and still there was Christ, there was hope.

I meant to turn our masterpieces into Easter cards, but now I’m not sure they will all be mailed away. We might need a few here, too. A few visible parables of our own.

watercolor cross2

Day 20: What it looks like to bring our difficulties to God’s light

Remember Pat Costigan and her paintings of hope? We’re sharing another one today titled Meditation.

017Meditation 1080p x 300dpi

Here is Pat’s (hope filled) artist’s statement:

When we meditate, we bring our difficulties and darkness to God’s light. 

God’s light penetrates, permeates, converges with the darkness.

Our darkness dissipates and becomes God’s Light.

Day 16: Signs of hope — from near and far

Today, Lawrence Jones shares his thoughts on signs of hope. He says he happily lives in Rochester with his wife and two children.  Along with being a follower of Jesus, he works to develop housing for low income families and seniors.  And he is a member of New Life Presbyterian Church. Lawrence…


Christians sometimes use the phrase “On God’s Time”, which is usually longer that we want it to be.  Yet, I feel a great source of hope when I look back and see how far we have come in the past 25 or 30 years.  I will give three examples:

After 40 years of The Cold War, with its nuclear warheads, brinksmanship, bomb shelters and espionage, along came Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning “openness”) and perestroika (meaning “restructuring”).  The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 with nary a shot being fired.  For those who lived through the Cold War, this was a miracle and gives us hope towards the possibilities of peace.

IMG_0974In the 1980s, apartheid, a system of racial segregation denoted by government policies of white supremacy, under which black residents had only limited rights was the law of the land in South Africa.  Nelson Mandela had been in jail for over 25 years.  A combination of increasing international scorn and isolation, along with F.W. de Klerk becoming President spelled the end of the worst of the oppressive treatment from the Afrikaner minority.  This happened with much less bloodshed than anyone could have guessed.  While still a country with its challenges, the distance that South Africa has come in less than a generation is miraculous and gives us hope about the capacity of people and nations to change.

Locally, if one drove down South Avenue in Rochester in the 1970s or early 1980s, they would have seen many boarded up storefronts as well as a good deal of trash and graffiti.  It was an urban neighborhood in decay.  The Rev. Judy Lee Hay and others started the South Wedge Planning Committee in 1975.  Over the next 35 years this directly led to a revitalized neighborhood. It took hundreds of people and many thousands of hours of labor, but now the South Wedge is among Rochester’s most vibrant neighborhoods.  It didn’t happen overnight, but the efforts of churches, businesses, concerned citizens and a responsive City of Rochester led to a transformation.  It gives us hope for all our neighborhoods.


Day 8: Putting your hope in the one who carries you

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters… He rescued me because He delighted in me.” — Psalm 18: 16, 19b

This verse, this beautiful verse, is how Jenn Kelly starts her story of hope. Please, read on…


I take my son Jackson (he’s two), to the gym with me about three times a week. OK, maybe more like two times a week. They have a great day care there, so I don’t mind leaving him in able-bodied hands. 
Sometimes when we go, it’s raining miserably, or the wind is so strong and fierce that I have to carry Jackson instead of letting him walk by himself.

When I open the car door, I pull his hat down over his ears, I pull his hood up and I take him out of his car seat. When I pick him up, I say, “I’m going to carry you buddy, it’s very cold out.”

He squirms a little because being two he wants to walk on his own, because he is two, and he is very independent. But once that wind hits him in the face, I can hear his gasp of shock and he buries his face right into my shoulder to shield his face. I lift my arms up and wrap them tightly around him, cradling his head against me so the wind won’t whip his face. ‘I got you love’ I whisper to him over and over again to soothe and to let him know that I do indeed have him.

Jackson takes great comfort in knowing that mommy’s got him and I’m not going to let the wind take his breath away, nor am I going to make him be exposed to the harsh elements alone. His mommy has him tightly against her, holding him.

So many times in the past 6 years (since I’ve become a Christian), life has taken my breath away, the rain falling so miserably on my heart that I can’t stop crying, or the winds of pain and anger or disappointment come and shock me, taking my breath away.

How thankful I am that God pulls me tightly in, pulling hat down further on head, pulling my hood up and then cradling me into His big strong arms, and whispers to me over and over again, “I got you love, I got you love.”

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Jenn Kelly is the author of “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish”  and its sequel, “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken.” You can learn more about her and her upcoming projects at her Website: You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JennKellyauthor.



Today’s journal page was designed by Tawny Burgess, a a 20-something gal living in Chicago, writing her tales of the city, theology, and all sorts of pop culture. Read more about her at her blog, My Sanguine Life.


To download the journal page, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:


Weary? Heavy heart? Join us for 40 days of hope


For weeks now I’ve wanted to offer words of comfort and healing, to somehow string together nouns and verbs in a way that they might become a balm for us all. But I have had no words, no wisdom to share.

Even my prayers have been short and repetitive: Please, help us.

I don’t think I’m alone in this, this place of leaning on the Unseen because I can’t believe my eyes – because I don’t want to believe my eyes. So, I’m doing the only thing that seems to make sense to me. I’m making myself write about hope for 40 days.

When you study writing, you hear about the importance of descriptive language and rhythm and tone. When you practice writing, you learn that it’s just as much about organizing your thoughts and taking a microscope to what you believe.

And right now I need to thoroughly examine hope. I need to see what it looks like in the light and in the dark, and I need to write it down so I remember how the story ends, how good trumps evil. Always.

I need this.

I’m starting Feb. 13, which is Ash Wednesday, in hopes that my heart will be better prepared to celebrate Easter. I’d be honored if you chose to join me and to send some of your own thoughts on hope. Maybe you could write about how you’ve found hope in the middle of your troubles or tell us about something wonderful happening. For those whose creative outlet is music or art, would you share a song recommendation or a painting or photograph?

How about designing a journal page to share with us? I have seven already but I’d love to offer 40 unique and inspiring pages that people could download and write on. Imagine how beautiful a journal like that would be.

Maybe we’ll find we don’t need many words. Maybe we’ll find hope alone is our balm.

Update: I introduced this idea a couple of weeks ago here at this blog and then shared it with readers of the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle. They have been generously sharing their thoughts on hope ever since. I do still have room for more, though… especially for those who would like to create a journal page. If you are interested, here are the details:

  • People of all ages and artistic abilities are encouraged to participate.
  • Decorate an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper with words or symbols that remind you of hope, but leave room for people to write.
  • Create a pdf of your page or send a copy to me, and I’ll be happy to scan it in for you.
  • Email me a picture of yourself and a short bio so people can learn a little about you.