Dirty Soles

My dear reader,

When I was in college, my friend Melissa washed my feet. It was one of the most unexpected and strangely lovely things that’s ever happened to me.

I was studying journalism (with minors in psychology, film, and frozen yogurt) and while I had plenty of reading assignments to keep me busy, I always circled back to my favorite book. Which also happens to be the best-seller of all time. (According to HuffPost. So it must be true.)

A gaggle of girls – all wildly different but drawn together by divine happenstance – gathered each week to talk, laugh, cry, pray, read and study that bestseller. Since Melissa only had a couple chairs in her sorority room, we typically sat on the floor, shoes off, guards down, Bibles and hearts wide open.


Because we didn’t just want to know about God.

We wanted to know Him.

We asked questions – hard questions – of God. We wondered and wrestled and pondered and prayed. We pressed for answers. And He spoke to us in the pages of that bestseller, time and again.

So we kept coming back to that room and that rug. It wasn’t long before it dawned on us that Melissa’s floor was… holy ground. We sat in a little circle, roaming back and forth in the scriptures, our discussions ranging far and wide, our souls laid bare in that place.

We were young and eager, bursting with passion and potential. Yet, painfully aware of our insecurities too. Deep down we knew the fancy degrees we were earning weren’t going to dispel our fears or reverse our failures. Not in the least.

We were what we were:

Unsure of ourselves. Anxious about our futures. Ashamed of our shortcomings.

Mine were plentiful. (And maddeningly persistent.)

My insecurities stalked me. My worries tossed me in the spin cycle and wrung me out. My secret sins kept rising to the surface and erupting like untimely blemishes. No amount of salicylic acid or makeup could cure or cover them up.

Dirt and dead stuff have a way of doing that. Things that were once clean and clear get clogged/infected/inflamed.

And it’s ugly.

But I digress…

One lovely spring afternoon in 1986, we were sitting around on Melissa’s floor reading from the Book of John:

It was almost time for the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus had always loved the people in the world who were his. Now was the time he showed them his love the most.

Jesus and his followers were at the evening meal. The devil had already persuaded Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over to his enemies. (Judas was the son of Simon.) The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God.  So while they were eating, Jesus stood up and took off his robe. He got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet. He dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist. 

He came to Simon Peter. But Peter said to him, “Lord, you should not wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what I am doing now. But later you will understand.”

Peter said, “No! You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, after you wash my feet, wash my hands and my head too!”

Jesus said, “After a person has a bath, his whole body is clean. He needs only to wash his feet. And you are clean, but not all of you.” Jesus knew who would hand him over to his enemies. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and went back to the table. He asked, “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am.  I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet.  I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you. Believe me, servants are not greater than their master. Those who are sent to do something are not greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, great blessings will be yours if you do them. (John 13:1-17, ERV)

Melissa closed her Bible, pulled up a chair, and told me to have a seat. Then she carried in a basin filled with warm, sudsy water and a big bath towel and knelt right in front of me. And she washed my feet. From the flip-flop-tan-lined tops to the unpolished toes… right down to my dirty, stinky soles.

She washed, dried, and blew me away that day. She knelt and served and blessed me. More than words can say. It was humbling and heart-searing. An object lesson – and precious memory – I’ll never forget.

Melissa washed my dirty soles.

Like Jesus washed my dirty soul.

The Master laid down His privilege… and picked up a servant’s towel… and washed away all my dirt and dead stuff.

The King of Kings wore a crown of thorns… and bore a cross.

For me and for you. (Two of billions – all – with blood on our hands.)

Staggering humility. Scandalous love. Outlandish grace.

That’s why Jesus came.

That’s who Jesus is.

His compassion is our invitation. His mercy, our gift.

His kindness beckons us away from the mud and muck, the dirt and the dead stuff.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4, NLT)

I turned. And He knelt and washed and blessed.

But invariably, sadly, I keep turning back.

Soiled again.

But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure. (1 John 1:9, NIRV)

The same night that Jesus washed the feet of His friends, He was betrayed by one of them. And then abandoned by the rest.

But His love didn’t flinch. (It never does.)

That’s the Good News.

The best news.



P.S. This Holy Week, let’s learn what the Teacher taught us to do: Forgive. Love. Serve. (Repeat.)





A Wee Bit Irish

My dear reader,

It’s been said that there are only two kinds of people in the world:

The Irish… and those that wish they were.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I was always the girl with the wish. My “real” Irish friends and family proudly (sham)rocked and relished their special day. (Usually for several days.) And I wistfully watched their eating/drinking/dancing/merrymaking from afar. Such fun for those Irish lads and lasses… pinching, kissing, clinking all the day long.

And then there was me. So very Un-Irish.

And green with envy.

No rainbows or pots of gold for me. No shamrock socks or sparkly green earrings. No Irish soda bread or boxty. No pranking or pub crawling or jigging or hurling (the sport, not the unfortunate aftermath of the pub crawling). And despite hours spent sitting and searching in the grassy field behind Lincoln Junior High School, not a single four-leaf clover. Not one.

My only consolation was my U2 mixtape and a big bowl of Lucky Charms. (Those pastel marshmallows really are magically delicious.)

When I was in college, a bunch of us went downtown to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade and gaze at the 8th Wonder of the Windy City:

The gloriously green Chicago River.

If you’ve never seen it, you should. At least once. It’s quite something. The Butler and Rowan clans pool their cash… and dye the whole waterway slime green. (Seriously, it’s the color of Slime. Remember that stuff? I can’t believe our parents let us spend money on that lump of neon nothing.)

That little ‘L’ train excursion was the highlight of my St. Patrick’s Day memories.


My brother did one of those DNA swab tests last year.


I’m a wee bit Irish!

(Nine percent, give or take.)

Apparently, somebody back in our family tree hailed from the Emerald Isle. Which may explain my smiling eyes, these freckles, and my fair share of feisty.

But I’m probably not Irish enough to be called Lass… alas.

(That won’t stop me from celebrating with wild abandon my newly-acquired holiday.)

Now that I’m officially (sorta) Irish, I’m kicking off my day with a cheery “Top o’ the morning,” a Kerrygold bulletproof coffee, and a St. Paddy’s Day playlist on Pandora. I’m planning to wear an emerald – ok, green foil – tiara and whip up some homemade shamrock shakes. For dinner. (When it comes to wild abandon, I don’t play.)

And I shan’t forget to give thanks for the Saint who made it all possible… Maewyn Succat.

Yes, that’s reportedly the given name for dear old Saint Patrick.

(Not sure where he picked up his new moniker, but I do think it worked out for the best. “Happy St. Succat’s Day” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. So all’s well that ends well.)

The “Apostle of Ireland” was a missionary and church bishop who – legend has it – used shamrocks to help explain the mystery of the Trinity. The three leaflets of each shamrock symbolizing the Father, Son, and Spirit: three distinct Persons, three parts of One Whole-and-Holy God. Pretty clever guy, that Maewyn.

Humble and grateful too, apparently.

“I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people…

“And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son…” (Saint Patrick’s Confession)

So it turns out Saint Patrick was… well… a sinner. Just like the rest of us. We’re all wretches, the whole lot of us. Some fighters or drunks. Some liars, cheats, or back-stabbing snakes. Even the “nice girls” and “good guys” have some mean/bad/ugly in us. Even the best and kindest among us are selfish screw-ups (or stubborn fools) at times.

And deep down, we know it, don’t we? Because deep down, there’s guilt/shame/blame that’s all ours. And we can’t cover it up no matter how hard we try. So we drag it along behind us like an overloaded suitcase with a busted zipper and a broken wheel. Eventually, the weight of it will slow us to a stop. Or the whole mess will start spilling out.

That’s the thing about guilt. It’s heavy stuff. And there’s only one place to unload it for good.


Give your guilt to Him.

(He can take it.)

And the best news is… in exchange, He’ll give you sweet freedom. A clean slate. A fresh start.

 For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. (2 Corinthians 5:19, TLB)

When I owned up to my ugliness and pleaded forgiveness, God didn’t turn me away. Instead, He showered me in mercy.

And showed me the Way.

Lucky me!


P.S. Got guilt? Give it to God… and grab hold of His amazing grace. It’s a gift. (Signed in blood, sealed with a promise, delivered direct from heaven.) Just ask, and it’s yours.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NLT)

Pour out your heart to God and soak up His love and mercy.

It’ll be grand. 🍀