I have arranged my retirement with my employer for this fall. One morning you just wake up and know, Lord, it is time, like that poem by Rilke I like, Autumn Day. Like the dandelions. They turn white when it is time and soon the wind takes them apart. It seems I am in pain most of the time these days. I even missed a week on the street because of it and an allergy to some pollen or other that finally knocked me out. Wheezing at night in the most musical way, like a pipe organ playing Tocatta and Fugue in D minor inside my chest, front and Bach!
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
This verse apparently impressed itself on Peter, who paraphrased it in 1 Peter 1:24-25. In my preparations for a class on Prayer, a book by Tim Keller, I was led to also consider Hebrews 1:1:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”
God started this conversation through Scripture and communicated to us most clearly in the Word that is Jesus. We take it in, meditate on the Word, and pray as our response to Scripture, to Jesus.
So maybe I would pray in front of the mirror:
Lord God, O Father of my soul, can’t I feel the statute of limitations you have put on our sins with these bodies you have given us for a short time only? I pray, dear Lord, that as our bodies fade, like a mist, wither away like a field of dandelions turning wispy white, that your Son, our savior, would be more clearly revealed in our words and deeds, that the last breath of our generation would be a mighty testimony to the gospel truth of Jesus Christ.
Denise brought many t-shirts to give our friends on the street, now that winter with its claws of ice has finally relinquished its grasp to days Shakespeare might have said are “more lovely and more temperate.” She washed each of these many shirts and then folded them more beautifully than I have ever seen t-shirts folded, like origami! I wanted to say to our friends, “before thou grabbest one of these shirts, please note the love and care of the one who selected it for you, paid for it, washed it and folded it so beautifully and consider how the love of God inhabits the praises of His people when you wear this shirt by His grace and mercy!”
Please pray for us, outside the safety and comfort of our homes. It is not often, but sometimes there are threats to our safety, like an altercation between two we know that resulted in a knife being drawn. We did not attempt to restrain anyone, but we put our bodies, flimsy and fragile as they are, between the two. I called the police, 911, but the one with the knife left the scene when he saw that I was calling. They told me they couldn’t detain anyone unless we were willing to testify against him. We have a different testimony, accusing no one.
I have a lot of thoughts about martyrdom, having had the privilege to serve briefly in Romania, where Richard Wurmbrand suffered Communist persecution and imprisonment, including solitary confinement in a cell underground without light, without a window, for three years. He wrote many books, but the one I read was “Tortured for Christ” about his imprisonment.
A van of the secret police stopped in front of me, four men jumped out and pushed me into the vehicle. I was taken to a prison where I was kept secretly for over eight years. During that time, no one knew whether I was alive or dead. My wife was visited by, the secret police who posed as released fellow-prisoners. They told her that they had attended my burial. She was heartbroken.
This brave, humble servant of the Lord passed away just before I travelled to Romania. But he made a lasting impression in Romania, as I heard his name mentioned among Christians there many times, as he made a lasting impression on me.
More recently, I read online about Abdiwelli Ahmed, who was gunned down in Northern Kenya by three assailants on February 7, 2013 for having preached the gospel to Muslims, like our own missionary, John Thomas. What his wife Helen said afterward was:
“We have a triumphant God,” she said. “We know God is going to triumph in this situation.”
No greater love has a man than he give up his life for his friends. We should pray for the safety of the team on the streets, especially after the last incident.
According to church tradition, June 29 marks the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul. This year, Christians around the world will take time on June 29 and throughout that weekend to honor the legacy of those who have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel.
Please take time to honor the martyrs, to remember them in your prayers, to pray for their families left behind. Whatever happens to us, we know God will be victorious!
And that is the Word on the Street!
For more information, or to learn how to join us in reaching people for Jesus, please email Living Water’s Director of Outreach, Mike Bongo, at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will get you plugged in! You will be blessed as you become a blessing to others!