Name that building

Nick Saban is the very successful football coach at the University of Alabama. He is also a devoted Catholic and regularly attends Mass at the St. Francis of Assisi University Parish. Three years ago the parish built a new building to be used in reaching out to and serving University of Alabama students. The new building was named the Saban Catholic Student Center. On the church’s website it says the Sabans’ “financial support and fundraising made the $2 million project possible.”

Saban’s Catholic faith appears to be quite sincere. It’s great that he cares about the spiritual life of students. There is something ironic, however, that a church named after St. Francis of Assisi names a building after somebody because of how much money they gave and raised.

Francis lived in Italy in the 1200s. His father was a wealthy businessman. It was an era when pursuing money was becoming a primary goal of many people. People were buying costly things, especially clothes to show off their status and wealth.

Francis lived with that materialistic mindset, until he was converted to Christ and felt Jesus calling him to rebuild His church. Francis thought at first the call was simply to rebuild the sanctuary of the local church, which had fallen into disrepair and neglect. He used some of his father’s money to pay for the repairs. When his father found out he was quite upset and thought Francis was crazy to waste money like that. He had his son put in prison, hoping that might straighten out his thinking.

Francis realized he shouldn’t have taken his father’s money without asking. He resolved to forsake all claims to his father’s wealth and his inheritance. In a dramatic courtroom scene, Francis took off all his clothes – the sign of wealth in that society – and returned them and all the money he had to his father. For the rest of his life Francis pursued Christ and service rather than wealth.

It wasn’t only his father who thought Francis was crazy. Throughout the centuries many people have looked at him as being eccentric. Somebody who said life wasn’t found in how much you have, and who lived that out, seemed strange then and seems strange now. We name buildings after ones who can raise $2 million. We get confused by ones who have little interest in acquiring wealth, but choose to be poor, humble servants.

The most confusing one is Jesus. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). Jesus willingly became poor, so that we can find the true riches of His love. That kind of grace is confusing because it is so different from our selfish old nature and such a contrast from the materialistic world around us. But that grace is amazing, freeing, enriching and life-giving to those who receive it.

God is always taking care of us

We were expecting the shuttle bus to be there any minute. There were 15 of us who had been in Estes Park, Colorado, for the Free Lutheran Youth convention. The bus was suppose to come and take us to the Denver airport, which was about two hours away. It was 15 minutes after the scheduled time for picking us up, so I gave the driver a call. “I’m here at the Denver airport. Are you ready to be picked up?” “We’re in Estes Park, needing a ride to the airport.” The cell service up there in the mountains wasn’t good, but I did hear enough to know we had a problem.

The driver apologized for the mix-up and said he’d leave for Estes Park right away. I had allowed extra time in the schedule, but I knew there wasn’t much chance he could pick us up and get us to the airport in time for our flight. But God was already at work, taking care of us. I went into the building next to where we were waiting and they had a landline phone we could use. We got the number of a local shuttle company. They said they would see if there was some way they could help us out. In about 10 minutes, in one of the rare times I had cell service, I got a call back saying they had two vans and drivers available. I found out later one of the drivers had just finished taking people to the airport and was on his way out the door for home, when he was asked if he could do another trip. God provided and his schedule was free to help us out.

Our new ride to the airport picked us up in about 15 minutes and we were on our way. Part way into the trip people in the van I was in started getting texts from the other van. The latch on the back door of the other van came undone. A wall between the luggage area and the seats caused it to not be noticed right away. One of our students thought something sounded strange and said something to the driver. They stopped and found three suitcases had fallen out. Amazingly more hadn’t fallen out. They turned around and went back for the missing suitcases. They found them a ways back up the mountain, but still in good shape. The trip to go back for the suitcases also resulted in the thankful retrieval of a cherished blanket.

The second van got to the airport less than 30 minutes after we did. The check-in and security lines were quite a bit shorter and quicker than some of my previous times in Denver. We even had enough time to grab some lunch on the way to the gate. There were some storms on the horizon but our flight was able to take off on time. The rest of the trip went fine and we got home to Astoria 15 minutes earlier than the estimated time of arrival we had told the parents.

It all ended up being a teachable moment as we saw evidence of God’s grace and God demonstrating He is in control. It was a little miraculous we found vans and drivers in Estes Park who were able to go right away and take 15 people to the airport. That’s grace. Only three of the many bags that were in the back of the van fell out the open door. They were found, undamaged. Even the blanket was found. That’s grace. The lines at the airport were shorter than usual and the storms held off till after we left. The God who controls the thunder and lightning is also gracious and looks after us.

“The Lord watches over us” (Psalm 121:5). If our main focus is on bus drivers that misunderstand directions and doors that don’t get latched properly, we’re going to be frustrated and angry a lot. People often go to the wrong place and things break down. But the Lord is always good. He is always watching over us. He is always graciously blessing us beyond what we deserve. We don’t need to get upset and worried. We can rest in God’s loving care.