My dad acting goofy with his sons: Jeremy Floyd, Lew Floyd, Andy Bickers, Doug Floyd
We gather to remember. Following the rhythm of God’s people from across the ages, we gather, we remember, and we rejoice in the goodness of our God.
Even as we remember the life of Lew Floyd, my father, we are giving glory to God in Christ. For all things are created in and through Christ, and in him we live and move and have our being.
Lew Floyd was a Athlete, Competitor, Adventurer, Artist, Socializer, Dreamer, Joker, Painter, Gardner, Friend, Father and a Storyteller.
Born in the middle of the Great Depression, his life reflected anything but that Great Depression. In fact, he recounted having little memory of struggle and hard times in those raw years. One of the earliest images I remember about my dad is watching a film clip of a two or three-year-old boy feeding chickens. He threw seed on the ground and then threw seed in his mouth.
In the early 1940s, America was busy fighting a war. My dad was busy fixing bicycles, raising rabbits and selling newspapers. He used to recount his experience selling papers on the day America dropped the bomb. He had never seen the word “atom” before, so he stood on the corner shouting, “Read all about it! America drops ate-om bomb.”
As a new optimism took hold in the country during the 1950s, my dad stepped into new possibilities when he graduated from high school. He spent his first quarter at University of Tennessee in Knoxville. After the first day of classes, my dad decided UT was too big and unfriendly, so he got on the bus and went back home.
His mom told him, “Get back on that bus and go back to school!” Of course, he promptly returned to classes. But he ended up winning a football scholarship to Carson Newman and was able to transfer the next quarter. While at UT, my dad served in the Navy ROTC program. Carson Newman did not have a Navy ROTC program at the time, so he wrote the Commander at UT and requested a discharge.
The Commander told him that he had to return his uniform before receiving the discharge. As college life took hold of my dad, he forgot the request and the uniform. Four years later, he graduated from Carson Newman and was promptly drafted into the Army.
Only there was a problem. My dad was still officially in the Navy. When he told the Army, they requested a discharge. The Navy complied. The Army gave my dad credit for serving four years of service, and he entered the service at a higher pay grade.
But before he left, he married my mom. She worked at Sears, and his sister introduced them. My dad always like to say that he got my mom from Sears and Roebuck. They spent their first two years of marriage in Europe courtesy of Uncle Sam.
The 1960s represent a period of dramatic change in America’s history. At the same time, my dad’s own life went through several dramatic changes. He finished his tour of duty and was prepared to settle down to the family business of selling insurance. A friend’s mom suggested he apply to the FBI.
For kicks, he applied and spent the next 25 years serving as a Special Agent in Springfield, IL, Buffalo, NY, New York City, and eventually Knoxville. Eight of those years were spent in the Big Apple, New York City.
This time proved to a pivotal time in my dad’s life. He followed Russian spies by day, and played with us kids in Oradell, New Jersey by night. He told us many stories of his time in the city and his adventures, but the stories I enjoyed the most were the mishaps and funny incidents involving other agents.
Once he told us about a new agent who recently arrived in the city. The other agents encouraged him to eat at a nearby deli because the owner would give agents bigger sandwiches. He stopped in one day and ordered a roast beef sandwich, but the owner was not in and he got a regular sized sandwich. The agent asked for more roast beef on his sandwich, and the lady replied, “That’s the way they come sir.” He promptly pulled out his badge and said, “FBI, more roast beef!”
New York City shaped my dad in some ways, but the greatest impact on his life during this season was at a local church in New Jersey. Him and my mom were looking in the yellow pages for a church when he spotted a church advertising “Air Conditioning” in their ad.
Those two words sounded perfect in the middle of a hot summer. Soon my parents joined this “cool” church. They both experienced a profound encounter with the Lord. Soon their life was defined by serving in various ministries from the church “bus ministry” to the children’s church to the youth group. Their time at First Baptist Hackensack shaped them in ways that impacted the rest of their lives.
In the 1970s, the United States brought our soldiers home from Vietnam. At the same time, my dad and mom returned home to Tennessee. He served at a SWAT team leader, a photographer and eventually a trainer in the local FBI office. My dad also found opportunities to share his faith with the very people he arrested and was known to bring bibles to them while they served in prison.
My dad retired in the 1980s, started a second career in banking and retired from it in the 90s. All the while, he remained active, engaged in life and ministry and full of good humor. He helped start a Sunday School class with a friend Jack Davis. The class became the center of my dad’s focus and energy over the last decade of his life.
In the late 90s, my dad, brother Jeremy, brother-in-law Andy, and me all decided to hike up to Mt LeConte right after Christmas. As the poorly trained hikers we were, we departed for the hike in late afternoon on a snowy December day. We finally reached the trail around four p.m.
Most people appeared to be coming back from the trail as we headed out and up. At first the path seemed fine, but soon we were walking (and slipping) on ice. Daylight was slipping away alongside us. Soon the dark shadow of night was fast approaching.
The trail shifted from a smooth passage over tree roots and rock to a steep climb along the side of the mountain. In my typical less than courageous mindset, I was ready to head back to Gatlinburg and enjoy a good meal! But we pressed on.
Soon a heavy set guy passed us heading down the trail. He stopped and said, “You really shouldn’t go any farther. It’s too steep, too icy and getting too dark.” After he passed out of sight, my dad replied, “Ain’t no fat boy gonna tell me I can’t climb the mountain!”
That one statement captures the energy and fire in my dad’s belly. If you tell him he can’t do it, can’t win, can’t make, he’s sure to give everything to prove you wrong. Thus we trudged upward and onward. I was convinced we’d die on the side of the mountain. But to my amazement, my dad’s drive pressed us all forward, and we made to the top and spent the night up there in a three sided-cabin.
Over the last several years, my dad’s quote became part of the family lore. Even now when facing a hard struggle, one of us will say, “Ain’t no fat boy gonna tell me I can’t climb the mountain!” That one moment (which was so exhausting and overwhelming at the time) has come to be one of the fond memories of time spent with my dad.
As I reflect on that moment, and the subsequent moments and the final moments of my dad’s life, I am reminded of how he lived fully in the moment. When he was serving in the FBI, he was fully engaged. But after he retired, he didn’t sit around and look back, he continued to embrace the moment before him.
We live moment by moment. In fact, every moment is gift. For in every moment we are sustained through the grace and goodness of God.
And in the moment, Christ says “Come”
“Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In our weakness, pain, suffering and struggles, he calls us to come. In our strength, joy, victory and success, he calls us to come. In the moment, he bids us come.
In the moment, he calls us to love one another. Most of us are born into community. Most of us will die in community. We are created and called to live in community.
In the moment, Christ commands, “Love.”
“Love one another as I have loved you. ”
Yet we are loveless and we waste the moment. We corrupt the moment. We betray the moment through unforgiveness, bitterness, covetousness.
Athanasius said that sin causes a corrupting corruption that infects everything and everyone.
Christ enters the corruption. Bears the suffering. Leads the weary world into death in Himself and life in himself. In Christ, we rediscover love.
We are loved and loved and loved.
In Christ, we learn not simply to live in the moment, but to love in the moment.
Let us love in the moment.
Life is but a series of moments.
Many moments we want to rush through. Some moments we want to slow down. There are painful moments, joyous moments, lonely moments, exciting moments, funny moments, sad moments, mundane moments.
All these moments are gift from our Lord and Father. Just because we may feel pain in this moment, just because we may suffer in this moment, just because we may sit in darkness in this moment, let us not grow deaf to the call of Christ.
Come. Live. Love.
We respond in thanks to the loving Father and seek to obey his command to rest in Christ this moment. To live in Christ this moment. To love in Christ this moment.
We are gathered this moment. We offers thanks to God this moment.
All we have is the moment.
And just a moment ago, my dad was suffering in the hospital.
And a moment earlier, he was hiking Mt Le Conte.
And a moment earlier, he retired from a career in the FBI.
And a moment earlier, he was marrying my mom.
And a moment earlier, he sold newspapers announcing the atom bomb.
And a moment earlier, he was born into a loving community.
Life is a but a series of moments.
And in a moment, the last trumpet will sound,
And in a moment, the dead will be raised imperishable,
And in a moment, we shall be changed.
And in a moment, this perishable body will put on the imperishable,
And in a moment, this mortal body must put on immortality.
And in a moment, Death will be swallowed up in victory.
So let us rejoice in this moment.
Let us be steadfast in this moment.
Let us be immoveable in this moment.
Let us abound in the work of the Lord in this moment.
For our Lord is Faithful, and our obedience to Christ in this moment is not in vain.
In this moment, Christ invites us to come.
You who are weary, you who are heavy laden with burdens and grief, come to Christ.
In this moment, Christ calls us to love.
Beloved let us love one another as God has loved us in Christ.
In this moment, Christ calls us to go,
Let us go out proclaiming the good, good, good news of our Savior’s love for this broken and suffering world.
And in this moment let us say but a momentary goodbye to Lew Floyd.