This past Thursday through Sunday (November 1-4), Connie and I hosted our latest dog clinic, with Gordon Watt presiding as trainer and teacher.
I’m certain some people driving by on Airport Road on Sunday, spotted our little crowd of people, sitting in lawn chairs in a wind-driven cold rain, and wondered to themselves, “What the hell are they doing there?”
In fact, as for me and my house, it was our way of going “all in.”
This coming Sunday a reading in church will be from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is nearing the end of his life, when he will go “all in” himself. He will give his life for all of us. Just before he does he has a sit down at the Temple, across from the treasury and the place where people deposit their offerings. He spies all sorts of people who have become trapped in play acting their faith for the sake of others. Honor is everything to them, as it is in many cultures, including our own. So, very possibly they started out in their faith journey with all sincerely, but soon became self-conscious about how much spiritual honor they were accruing for themselves—self-conscious thinking about how their piety might look on camera. It had the effect of poisoning their lives so that nothing of it had the ring of truth anymore. Before long all that they could give was pretend and pretense. Nothing was “all in.”
But then Jesus saw a poor widow who put into the offering all she had—her widow’s mite. If a host of cell phone cameras had been there they would have recorded nothing but chump change. But Jesus wisely noted that she gave most of all. She gave completely and honestly of herself.
A couple of weeks ago the reading was about Jesus’ healing of Blind Bartimaeus. Disciples James and John had asked Jesus for the prime seats next to Jesus in his glory. Bartimaeus asked only to see. And when Jesus healed him, Bartimaeus threw off his cloak—most likely the only thing he owned in the world, and followed Jesus, whose next stop was the cross.
Bartimaeus too went all in. He and the widow hungered for the honor of giving of themselves to others.
Of course any school child can see the logical conundrum of going “all in” if it is thought of in a crass materialistic way. If we give away all we have, the people we give to are enriched. Then they, if they are to join us in our sacrificial living, must give away what they just received from us. What a wacky circle that would be!
But the authentic widows and blind beggars of life know something of the secret of faithful living. To enjoy it we must be free from the idea of sacrifice, and we must be “all in.” It doesn’t mean losing, but gaining. Giving and receiving become one thing. Our honor is not in what others think of us, but in what we both give and use to be a blessing to others.
It is a joy for Connie and me to look out on the green pastures, the grazing sheep, the galloping dogs, the beautiful sunsets and even the glowering clouds, wind and rain. But when we go “all in” and open our farm to others, it means infinitely more. We get it all back a hundredfold, as the Lord says.
We could make these clinics more of a business proposition. We could certainly charge more money. We barely cover our expenses. We could keep people outside or in the garage, and avoid messing up our kitchen and living room. But the joy that we get from sharing everything we have with others turns them from customers to dearest friends. The joy we get from farming and from our miraculous dogs is amplified 100-fold as we share it all so that strangers become family.
This spring we will have to sit down with our accountant. He will ask us if we have been trying to make a profit with this farm. That is an important concept for the Internal Revenue Service codes, I know. But the profit we realize is not one that can be calculated or easily explained to the authorities. Nonetheless, I believe Jesus sees us all, shivering in the cold there, with smiles on our faces–and He understands.