FOLLOW ME

You don’t know me.  But if I walked up to you after blowing in off the desert where I was going hungry for 40 days and I said, “Follow me,” would you do it?  Would you follow?  Me?

If you were busy with something else when I popped up there, say maybe working at the family business, or maybe working to make money for your family, would you drop everything and follow me?  Or would you call your secretary first, have her clear your calendar and then follow?  Or would you put me on your schedule for next Tuesday at 9 and then come follow me?

Tell you what.  Let’s make this super easy.

If I was blogging about Jesus, and I wrote a post on the call of his first disciples, men who become pillars of his church, and on my blog I say, “Follow me,” would you then click the follow button, and start following my blog?

Does following Jesus suddenly sound like it might be harder than you thought?

I have often thought about it.  Maybe not often enough, but I have.  Have you?

Let’s say it’s my day off from work, and I am really taking time to meditate on Scripture, something a good Christian might oughta do sometimes, and so I go to the park, sit under a tree by the playa lake and read the pertinent passages in Mark 1 and 2 about the call Jesus places on a few fishermen and a tax collector who drop what they are doing and run off to follow Jesus.

Got the scene?

Got it.

Good.

So, there I am contemplating this, and a strange man comes walking up by near me.  I glance over and notice he looks a bit rough.  He glances at me, and this happens right in mid-meditation.  It occurs to me that he could conceivably call me to follow him.  He hasn’t done it, not yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to do so in modern day America, but I am in mid-meditation on this subject, so I take it seriously.  Right?

Right.

So, here I am now.  I imagine this man calling me to follow.  Will I drop my book, get up and go?

Or will I ask him for credentials?

Hey, man.  Who are you?  Why should I follow you?  Where are you going?

I’ve got questions, you see.  I don’t just drop everything and follow grungy looking strangers.

Do you?

Ever?

Would you?

What if it was Jesus?

Would you drop everything and follow?  Or would you have some questions first?

How do you know you should answer this call or not?

What if it was Ted Bundy saying, “My car won’t start, I need someone to stand here and hold the screwdriver to the battery while I crank it up, and then I’m good.  Will you follow me to my car just around the corner?”

Wow!

Did I just compare Jesus to Ted Bundy?  Or did you?  (Think about it.)

Why would you ever drop everything and follow someone?  Why would you ever drop anything and follow?

Either you would have to really know in your heart this was Jesus the Son of God who is worth everything, or you would have to know that what you are doing is worth NOTHING.  Maybe both, but if you say it’s the former, then let me ask you to read Mark carefully and tell me if these disciples have some great UNDERSTANDING of who exactly Jesus is.  Then explain 14:50 to me while you are at it.

Jesus calls the tax collector, and they go party back at his place.  This is almost beginning to make better sense to me.  I can almost get there to Levi’s party.  I have to swallow my Republican, IRS agent-hating pride, but once I’ve done that, I get close.  A party sounds nice.  I know that.

So, I’m sitting there meditating like this and the stranger who came near, whose glance met my glance, has now moved on, and honestly, I am relieved.  I didn’t really expect him to call me to follow, but I knew if he did, in this moment, there is an honesty I am having with God which tells him I wouldn’t follow.  But since the stranger moved on (AS EXPECTED), I feel a ton of relief that I was not actually tested.

God help me if he ever asked me to kill my own son.  (Abraham, anyone?)

But then it dawns on me that Jesus probably passes by a lot of people on the beach.  He calls the ones he thinks will faithfully answer the call and skips past those who wouldn’t.  I’m now watching that stranger walk away, and I realize, without saying a word, I failed the test.  I have better things to do with my life than follow some stranger I don’t really know.

This meditation is important, okay?  But I got work tomorrow, and I can’t drop some proverbial net and go follow a guy I met by the lakeside.  I got bills, mouths to feed, responsibilities to clients and so forth.  Jesus doesn’t want me shirking any of that.  I have an excuse from God not to follow!

Yeah.

That’s the spirit.  Not God’s, but it’s the spirit, alright.  Someone else’s spirit.

What if I was a homeless bum?

Do you think I might have an advantage here if I were a homeless bum?

The poor are rich in faith, says the good book (James 2:5).

Is this what James is talking about?

Well, I don’t really think so, but it does make sense of the Bible data better than anything else I have been thinking.  Not all homeless bums drop whatever they are doing and follow.  So, there’s that.  On the other hand, those first disciples were all employed and working the moment they answered the call.  So, there’s that too.

It may be that the homeless bum has an advantage, she literally knows she doesn’t have anything better to do.  She is stripped of pretense, and it’s almost easy at that point.  But of course, it was easy for Ted Bundy to attract multiple victims too.

Is there something else going on here?

I sit back down under the tree by the playa lake and continue meditating.

Way before Jesus blows in off the desert calling followers, God through Moses picks a fight with Pharaoh.  Think about this now: Moses blows in off the desert and says, “Let My people go!”

Go where?

Go a three day’s journey into the desert to party with God.

Wait what?

Yeah.  Israel has a job.  The Hebrews are actually on the clock in the brickyard when Moses makes this demand.  According to Egypt, Israel has something better to do than follow Moses.  Israel too groans about this.  It’s not like the Hebrews just really love this career choice, but how is this going to help anything?  Who does this Moses think he is?  And anyway… a three-day journey into the desert is a death sentence!  Party with God???  We will be dead by the time we get there.

Yeah.  If you really knew this Jesus calling you by the lakeside, you would know he intends to die.  Those boys dropping nets don’t see that.  Not yet.  Don’t believe me?  Then explain Mark 8:31-33 to me.  No.  The disciples have a severe misunderstanding of Jesus and what he is all about when they drop their nets and follow.

But at least there is that party at Levi’s.  I can roll with that!  All except the tax collector bit.  Right?

Sure.

Would you follow Jesus?  Would you a blog?  Why?  Don’t you literally have something better to do?

FAT BEGGARS SCHOOL OF PROPHETS, THE BEST KEPT SECRET ON THE INTERNET!

Did you miss me?

Nah…  Not really.  Both of you who read here didn’t, and I get it.  There’s monkey pox, elections, nuclear power plants, and the Chinese vs. Pelosi to keep you far too busy to think about Jesus and the homeless, especially on such a humble, brittle, almost cynical blog as this.

But… welcome back, anyway.

I’ve been working!

I have two writing projects (offline) in the works these days.  And I have been revising, revamping, trashing and rewriting.  I posted a small bit of my very first draft of the newest project several days ago (couple months?), and it is a chapter in my project which currently I find central to everything, a chapter that moves me to tears to write it.

So, of course I want to perfect it.  And that means sleeping on it.  It means rewriting, adding, subtracting… running it by critics, and more.  If you want to reread that bit of first draft so you get the feel for it again, here is a link:

BETRAYED WITH A FIST

The nurse I write about in this project is facing burnout after a string of child deaths in her unit.  She is struggling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to cope.  One of the ways she works at it is by planting flowers and shrubs in our backyard Gethsemane.  In reality, the drought is killing some of it this year, which I expect compounds the pain.

Meanwhile, I have chosen to write about it.  I have chosen to try to FEEL the feelings and walk through it with her.

One of the ways I have been enhancing the experience is with music.  I have been looking for both pop and classical music, especially anything she likes, which deals with grief and loss.  I had to do some digging in storage, but I found this old CD with a song, not terribly famous, but once I listened to it afresh, I was overwhelmed with it.

The music makes the song, but the lyrics do too.  They go together in a special blend.  But I cannot reproduce the music for you.  All I can do is link it and hope you go check it out for yourself.

But the immersion into this song certainly takes me to the mysterious places of grief and wonder.  It’s not Christian in mindset at all, but grief is a celebration of loss and a sense of being lost.  The flower God puts in our world which this artist chose to sing about is ugly and beautiful at the same time.  It spreads on the wind, and as my nurse plants her flowers, I cannot help but think of this other one blowing through the garden with hers.  It has blown me through her backyard Gethsemane in a unique way.

So, I invite you to the garden too.

Perhaps pray while you are here.  My prayer is that in listening to this song, I can write and perfect the chapter illuminating this nurse’s grief in a way which validates her, so she feels connected to me and others.  And of course, I intend to grasp her hand and lead her to Jesus for his comfort as well.

Here are the lyrics:

Dandelion

by Ian Moore

Wind, pick up this dandelion flower

blow it far away from here where the world has never seen

the beauty that it knows. It lights softly where it goes

a meadow or a road.

Sun, turn this grass from green to brown.

The August son’s so cruel; it sets fire to the rules,

and I’m falling.

What you waiting for?  It’s time for you to rise.

Close my eyes and keep me safe from all I know,

til the life is dried and gone, and the ghosts have all moved on.

Brother, brother, keep me safe from all I know.

Where the dandelion goes, the dandelion goes…

Blow your wishes for the one thing I can’t give

the sacrifice you live, the blood that must be spilled.

Illuminate me now and show me what’s inside 

the places that you find, the secrets that you hide.

Burn the flower!  Let it die for what it knows, the ruthless truth it shows, the plan that it unfolds.

Brother, brother, keep me safe from all I know.

Where the dandelion goes, the dandelion goes…