Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hang on to Your Mustard Seeds

So remember when we started "Pockets of Hope" for the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund?  In short, my goal was to use this blog to help raise $1000 for the May tornado victims in Oklahoma.  On a broader note, I was hoping and praying that, somehow, this blog would inspire us and push us all, maybe even beyond our normal comfort zones, to give generously in faith. It was about seeing a need and being an active part of doing something about it.

Like every well-intentioned big idea I set out to put in action, "Pockets of Hope" was a learning experience, a journey with some bumps in the road, and more of a process than I anticipated.  I guess I should have known it would be predictably unpredictable.  Counting all that change and getting it to the United Way of Central Oklahoma's OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund was not as simple as it sounded.  I guess I was expecting the change fairy to come and take all our money and turn it into usable dollars.  Did you know banks actually require you to roll ALL your change before they will take it?  And would you believe those really convenient change machines you see in banks and grocery stores wanted a commission on our money?!  Change machines are wonderful and free to use if your charitable organization is an active listed partner.  Unfortunately, our specific and recent cause, the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund, has not yet made the list.  Needless to say, my kids got some valuable and unexpected practice counting and sorting money. 

In the end, we did not make our $1000 goal.  Thankfully, with help from several of you, we did managed to give $315 to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  That is a lot of change, folks, and a lot of pennies full of purpose!  I cannot thank you enough for helping me bless others.

So, how did we do?  How do we look at this experience?  Isn't that what most of us do in our heads, talk about it?

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

My initial thought on the outcome of our "Pockets of Hope" effort was "FAILURE."  As always, I am just being completely honest.  That's where my mind went first.  I wanted to reach our $1000 goal to help tornado victims in Oklahoma.  Even more than helping the tornado victims in Oklahoma, I really wanted to inspire people to share in a strong, everyday, real, faith.  We didn't just miss our monetary goal, we weren't even half way there.  The numbers did not work in our favor.  Like I said, "FAILURE" quickly came to mind, and it stayed there for a while.  I kept thinking, "Here I am writing my heart out, trying to show people how real God is and how His words come to life through prayer and acting in faith, but I FAILED on this one.  Now, what do I write?"  I am okay with falling short of the $1000 goal, but I certainly don't want people to doubt God's power, goodness, and presence just because things didn't turn out in my own expected and hopeful fashion.  That, in all honesty, is why it's taken me so long to write another post.  I have struggled with what to say next. 
Immediately following thoughts of failure, came the all too familiar cliché.  We didn't meet the $1000 goal because "it just wasn't meant to be.  My hopes and prayers for this "Pockets of Hope" project just weren't God's will, so the numbers just didn't happen."  While that may be true in part, it's a cop-out, and I think it's an easy crutch to lean on when things we pray about don't go our way.  I could sweep this whole thing under the rug, pretend like no one is looking, and move on, but I know we would miss God's point for all us right now.  See, this whole scenario is a reflection of how faith really works, and I think faith is as much about the journey as it is about the outcome.
Let's look at this situation from another perspective.  Let's just suppose for a second that more people than I could count were inspired to give change and donations to OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund because of reading this blog.  My writing made a difference and people, even strangers, emailed me their donation amounts, and we blew our $1000 goal out of the water.  We counted money for weeks, and I got to tell you the good and amazing news.  We used our faith to move mountains for the tornado victims in Oklahoma!  Nothing is impossible and our acts of faith proved it just like I prayed it would.
That all sounds good, and it would make my words look really good, but I wouldn't have very much to talk about now except to say a quick, "See, I told you so."  That is NOT reality in this situation or in everyday life and, more importantly, that is NOT faith.  God is a whole lot of awesomeness, but He is not a genie in a bottle whose job is to grant our wishes and follow our commands.  Because despite our best ideas, that wouldn't be very awesome at all.  To think that God should do things to match my definition of success trivializes and minimizes His power as our loving Savior, His sovereignty, His divine ability, and His perfect know-how.  It's easy to live in faith when God is doing what we think He should, when His will is in line with what we think we need and want for ourselves and others.  And sometimes, we get to celebrate that sweet reality.  That's when we can't imagine having faith only as small as a mustard seedBut many times, don't you know, we find ourselves in places and situations we wouldn't necessarily choose for ourselves.  Things don't go as expected.  We lose and are lost.  We disappoint and are disappointed.  We fall short.  We mess up.  We hurt.  We struggle.  We are afraid. I think that's where God makes His biggest points in our lives.

Our plans, our hopes and dreams, our prayers can seem impossible and beyond reach from where we are in life at the current moment.  All those negative feelings just love to creep in, panic, doubt, shame, anger, and failure, just to name a few.  That's when the mustard seed of faith Jesus was talking about in Galatians is so important.  We just have to hold on to it, so we don't lose it.  Everyday faith means we have to trust that God is there with us and at work even when our mountains aren't moving.  God doesn't break promises.  God tests us, shapes us, strengthens our character, teaches us, and deepens our faith, loving us unconditionally- all for His glory!  It's okay when things don't go our way because that just means God has a better idea at the moment.  God made the mountains.  He is the Holy One who can see beyond them, and He is the Holy One who can move them.  So, let's keep praying friends, and let's keep our hearts open to ways God can use us to serve others humbly in love for our Lord and Savior.    

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
A prayer for today-
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for all the ways you bless my life.  Thank you for all the work you are doing through this blog and "Pockets of Hope".  I know that you are with me always as my loving, saving Father.  You are my Lord and Savior, my ultimate teacher, and my guiding light.  Forgive me for letting my selfish and impatient ways get in the way of Your will for me moment to moment.  Help me, Lord, to keep growing in faith in all that I do.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
Praying God will be with you and bless you today and always,


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