Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him

“Look!” he said, “my mother and my brothers are here. Anyone who does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.” Mark 3:35

I am still thinking about Brother Sun and Sister Moon. The thing about Francesco was the simplicity of it all–taking Jesus at His word.  Really and truly acting on How happy are you who own nothing, for the kingdom of God is yours! And if a man is taking away your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt as well. Give to everyone who asks you, and when a man has taken what belongs to you, don’t demand it back. And Don’t judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don’t condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. And in summary, And what is the point of calling me, ‘Lord, Lord’, without doing what I tell you to do?

Then he gave them an illustration—Can one blind man be guide to another blind man? Surely they will both fall into the ditch together. A disciple is not above his teacher, but when he is fully trained he will be like his teacher.

And the family of Jesus came to take Him home because they thought He was mad.

Let me show you what the man who comes to me, hears what I have to say, and puts it into practice, is really like. He is like a man building a house, who dug down to rock-bottom and laid the foundation of his house upon it. Then when the flood came and flood-water swept down upon that house, it could not shift it because it was properly built. But the man who hears me and does nothing about it is like a man who built his house with its foundation upon the soft earth. When the flood-water swept down upon it, it collapsed and the whole house crashed down in ruins.

And when I look and listen and shake open the morning paper, I see floodwaters sweeping down and crushed houses.

And yet. There are those houses still standing, properly built.

So, Wendy Ingham shifted doing what she always does in teaching Western Civilization, which can sometimes seem dry and distant and irrelevant. And each of her sophomores has been reading one of those old tattered missionary biographies with the pages sort of stuck together, the sorts that are found on back and bottom shelves in church libraries.  And yesterday I walked into our homeroom and the chairs were all rearranged, which is a big statement in educational circles, not facing the front white board as usual, but in a circle facing the wall. The wall covered with book report posters that teachers are so fond of, and there watching me from their taped and stapled positions were Hudson Taylor and Jim and Elizabeth Elliot and Lottie Moon and of course Bruce Olson. And oh what lives they led. Nothing mundane about it at all. Muddy, beaten, and worm-infested…”and persecutions,” sure, but step-by-step in the towering cloudy presence of God.by day and His flaming presence by night. And the carefully hand-copied Elliot quote that sums it all up: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

And I grew up with family devotions, sitting around the breakfast table, sometimes restlessly, as my father methodically turned to the next page in Little Visits with God or More Little Visits with God until at last we graduated to Our Daily Bread. And then we would pray. And part of the prayers were set, like for the Foxwells in Japan on Monday, and the Lyons in Africa on Tuesday, and these far away names became part of who I am and how I see the world. And so on Mondays I pray for the Bordens in Tanzania and Robyn and Stuart in Cameroon and on Tuesdays for Manuel, Lisandro and Patty Restrepo & Jose and Guadalupe. Yep, I still pray for the pastors of that little cardboard and rusty metal sheeting church in Mexicali.  And I haven’t seen Lisa Borden for almost thirty years. Really we spent about three weeks together when she was part of that group of people who traveled down to the ranch that first week and there was no water and no electricity and lots of flies and lots of broken down vehicles. But every week she and I rest in the presence of the Almighty, and I say, Hey, God, have you noticed your servants Lisa and Bryon?  Bless them and strengthen them and fill them with Your presence. And somehow, with the miracles of internet magic we have had a little chit chat this very morning, me and Lisa in Tanzania. And I hold her in my heart.

Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

And I gotta say that I have wiggled into this blessing, myself. Me in comfy cozy home in comfy cozy Tucson. My small cups of water given to one of His disciples have given me a hundred times as much, even in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields. And I know that if I show up at the train station, someone will come and pick me up in Lugo, Italy. And Berkis in San Jose de Ocoa wrote to tell me that she redid my old  bedroom in Barrio Nuestro Esfueza so that it is ready to receive me, And there are tazitas of coffee and lots of avocados waiting for me in Guatemala City. And when fires were raging in Northern Arizona, I got a facebook message from Igor’s mother in Moldovia: I heard that there are disasters near you, and I want you to know that you can come live with us. And I am meeting with the school board on Tuesday, trying to make it back to my doorstep in Mexicali. And this very minute, my sister in Tanzania is putting on the kettle, just in case I show up for a cup of tea.