Monday, May 12, 2008

Adventures in Asceticism

This week has been an adventure worthy of the Count of Monte Cristo. This time, however, the hero of the story was not Edmond Dantes, Though he had his extravagance and dramatic timing. No, the hero wasn’t me either. God is the hero of this (perhaps every) good story.

We set off for district council with little money but some great assets. Brad Trask had graciously offered us Brighton Assembly’s Missionary House. As hard as we tried to share the blessing, we couldn’t find anyone else to stay with us, so we had this big beautiful house to ourselves. Our parents were going to stay at FaHoLo campground in Grass Lake and watch our kids in their bus.

We thought if worse came to worse we could buy some food with our foodstamps and cook back at the missionary house. But we ha a problem there. I had cracked the card a few weeks back and Elaine called for a replacement. The card didn’t come until we had left. So the cash we had on hand was all there was. We were stressed, but we determined to trust God.

We went down to the campground Sunday night. Elaine and I were in the midst of a three day fast anticipating what God would do in us through ordination, so we only had to feed the kids. The next day we dropped off my suits at a dry cleaner (One Hour Martinizing which is no longer one hour, we were extremely lucky they let us have one day service.) That took the last of our money. In fact I had to borrow a dollar from money I had brought to restock the coffeehouse.

Later that day I had coffee with Professor Mojo, and classmates, Joe and Christy. We talked about St. Francis and other things spiritual. I was so hyped up on caffeine courtesy of Live Wired Coffeehouse (R&D) that I was talking a mile a minute. Christy prayed for us, that God would provide the money to get us back home. Will all our talk about St. Francis I was soon to find the joy of his simplicity and relinquishment.

That night my parents got in. They decided to celebrate our anniversary (a month early) and we went to the grocery store for supplies and a desert. They then wanted to get a pizza. We drove all around Jackson to find a place that was open. My parents felt so bad that they filled our tank for us! Then back at the bus we had desert and opened a card with a gift of $25!

Armed with gas and $25 we headed to council. Tuesday was our ordination luncheon and rehearsal. That night was the banquet we had already paid for, so our meals were covered for this day. Dave Williams laughed at the luncheon that he had intended to send us $100 after reading some comments we had posted about our desire to trust God with our finances and become even more generous. He was so tickled that we didn’t act like victims of our economy. We laughed with him, we thought it was silly, but nice, of him to think of sending $100 to us.

Wednesday was the offering for pastor appreciation - our pastor, the pastor’s pastor, Bill Leach. God had already given us a tank of gas and money. He was great! Elaine pulled the $20 bill out of the envelop with a sly delighted look in her eye. I nodded with a grin. The offering went by and we had $5 left.

The next day was the home missions service, where we celebrate church planting and other missions here at home. We love church planting and we love God and the way he was providing so we gave our last five dollars. After that service I was called over by one of the leaders in our district and was given a Pentecostal Handshake, that wonderful institution where the Spirit inspires someone to pass some cash along with the peace of a handshake. As if we needed further proof that God was taking care of us, I found in my hand five $5 bills, completely replacing the money that we had gotten rid of already! We were being blessed by a photographer with royalty free professional photos on a cd so we in turn blessed him with $20 of our money. I tell you we just couldn’t get rid of the stuff. To our surprise Dave Williams then made good on his ridiculous promise to give us some money. So we were then able to go out to dinner on a crisp $100 bill and put another $50 in the offering! We really couldn’t out give God as much as we tried. It was fun to try. I felt the joy of St. Francis dancing through the woods in nothing but a hair shirt having thrown even the clothes off his back down at his father’s feet. “Now I can truly pray, ‘My Father in Heaven,’” he said.

Dave talked about his early days in ministry as we prepared to take up that last offering. He talked about how God had challenged him to be generous. He was making almost nothing, but he decided to tithe to the district, then tithe again to his church and then give to missions before spending the rest. I laughed out loud and leaned over to Elaine and whispered, “That is ridiculous!” Ridiculous and fabulous! God had only in the last few weeks challenged us to the same thing! What fun this adventure is. O for the day when we can finally give it all away! And we can live free, in the joyful asceticism.

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