The other day, Freddie Arnold was telling the pastors about the iron bell his wife had bought at an antiques store years ago and how it was the only thing he had salvaged from his flooded East New Orleans home. When he finished, I told my “bell” story.
My parents used to have this large cast iron bell mounted on a post behind their farmhouse. About 15 minutes before time for lunch, someone would go outside and pull the rope and ring it. The sound carried a mile in every direction, so my mule and I could hear it way down in the bottomland we were plowing. Now Toby, my mule, knew what the bell meant. His ears perked up and he wasn’t worth shooting after that. As long as he was pulling the plow toward the exit, he made double time. But if I was trying to complete this section and still had a few rows to go before knocking off for lunch, he resisted all attempts to turn him.
Finally, when I pulled his harness off and whopped him across the backside, he literally ran up the long hill toward home, displaying more energy in a few minutes than he had expended all morning. By the time I arrived at the house, Toby would have eaten the nubbins in the trough which someone had laid for him and was rolling in the dust.
In Isaiah 1, God said, “The ox knows his owner, and the donkey knows his master’s crib, but Israel does not know. My people do not understand.”
Some people are dumber than a mule. They’ve gotten themselves lost and do not know how to get to the Father. It’s our job to find them and show them the way. The Lord Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.” And, “As the Father hath sent me, so send I you.”
After the meeting, Tobey Pitman approached me. “So you had a mule named Toby.” I laughed and said, “Yes, but you spell yours T-o-b-e-y and my mule spelled his T-o-b-y.”
Tobey Pitman is a career NAMB missionary who has directed the work of the Brantley Center–sheltering, feeding, and discipling the homeless of this city–for several decades. These days with so few homeless in the city and due to the low water pressure downtown, the center is closed and Tobey is overseeing Operation NOAH Rebuild for the North American Mission Board. And for the Lord, of course. And for us. He’s a great guy and we are all so indebted to him.
Last night my phone rang. “Hi Joe. This is Toby.” I paused. “Toby?” “Yep.” “Toby Wood?” I thought I recognized that voice. “Of course, how many Toby’s do you know?” I said, “Oh, three or four.”