Sunday, February 20, 2011

O Ye Of Little Faith

"A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water."

- Proverbs 11:25

Last month, I decided to do something different for my birthday. i had no idea how it would turn out. And it definitely placed me outside my comfort zone. But I had just finished a small group focused on telling a better live story. And if we want to live a more interesting life - a life more glorifying to God - it’s going to involve risk.  With that mindset, I decided to take a plunge. 

I set up a campaign with charity: water and set a goal to raise $1,000 for clean water. Here’s what blew me away: I reached my goal in a matter of just 4 days - AND surpassed it.

It can be awkward to ask people for money. Gone are my days of selling Girl Scout cookies. And it’s been five years since I wrote support letters for a mission trip. Somehow I’ve always shirked from asking people for money. It feels cold, and awkward. But the charity: water experience reminded me that I was just as transformed in this process - as well as those who gave. One donor told me that he was feeling compelled to boost his tithes and offerings beyond the biblical 10 percent, and he was happy to give to charity: water. Talk about convicting! And there were other wonderful reactions. One anonymous donor just simply said: “This is what living is all about. Now let’s continue to give relationally!”

I am struck by a few thoughts on the idea of giving:
  • It is sacrificial. It asks for nothing in return.
  • It provides the opportunity to reconnect with people you haven’t talk to.
  • It is awe-inspiring. The anonymous donations floored me. Humbled me.
  • It reinstated my belief of the power of the decentralized Internet. Even “loose” connections can bring together powerful change (Check out Malcolm Gladwell’s article - it’s an excellent read on social media and social change).
  • God measures percentages, not amounts. Some of my closest friends (cash-strapped academics) gave just $10 donations. Those donations are just as important and meaningful as the largest amounts.
However, one thing nagged at me throughout the campaign: Was I testing God?  TentBlogger writes honestly on lack of faith:

I think I have faith at least the size of a mustard seed. But, sometimes I doubt that I have faith at all. I want to take everything in my hands. Even knowing that giving it up to God will be much easier. I lack faith when I don’t see an end to a situation. I don’t really think that some people can actually be healed. I don’t know if I’ll have the outcome that I desire. I don’t know if I’ll be a good parent. I don’t know if God will provide. Then when I stop and realize that He’s done all of this for us before, I am relieved and humbled. And I know He’ll do it for us again.

But you know what? THIS was the end to the situation -- a pretty good end, in my opinion!

In just 10 days, a total of 26 individual donations raised $1,162, which served 58 people.

Thank you, dear friends and family. Thank you for giving. Thank you for reminding me that God is faithful, that God transforms us, especially when we’re not expecting it. Thank you Brad Ward, Lisa Massanisso, fellow storytellers Andy / Kristy / Teresa, Mom & Dad, Min Kim, Sara Bell, Rebeckah Reader, roommates Jaime & Jessie, Marianne Roszyk,  Christina Lear, 2 anonymous donors, Sara Mollner, “my missionary” Helena, Aunt Lorene, Mrs. Kirsininkas, Erica Cribbs, Courtney Brode, Jessica Bowman, Cynthia Holtz, and JT.

Thank you for showing me that these kinds of risks are definitely worth taking!

(Also: Donating money for clean water is cool, but how about money for an outhouse? One of my favorite non-profit role models, Beth Kanter, had that on her birthday wishlist this year.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bad Weather Is Divine

Plodding along
A snowy, slushy path,
I give in to the elements.
A fury of flurries,
a silent downpour,
Gridlock hits the grid.
Buses delayed.
Trains jammed to capacity.
Gray shadows fill every street corner.
I am a character in a crowd in a silent film.
I pause,
Basking in my helplessness.
Unable to stop weather.
At the whim of transit.
Much like resting in God.
Not scary, but gentle.
A submission to the Divine.
There is comfort in letting go,
In letting yourself get swept up
In His presence.
It requires patience, discomfort
But when the burden shifts to Him,
The traffic, the mess
Is oh-so-beautiful.

Originally posted on The Bluevine Collective

Sunday, February 6, 2011

When The Stakes Are High

My church leadership retreat last month was themed "All In." There was image of a poker table; two hands pushed poker chips, a cell phone, and credit card to the center of the table. Wait - gambling as a theme for a church leadership retreat? Hey, it was just a metaphor. (Side note: One of my high school youth retreats was centered entirely on the movie "Zoolander." I'll be the first to admit that church themes can be ridiculous!)

Think about it like this: are you "all in"? Are you committed to the work of God - or just letting life pass you by? God wants all us of - not just the leftovers. It's like privacy settings on Facebook: God doesn't want to see your "limited profile," he wants to see EVERYTHING, even those pictures we're not proud of, or those not-so-glorifying wall posts. We need to hand over our time, money, and talent to worship him.

Some of my key takeaways:

  • More than anything, God wants us to humble ourselves.
  • Community is messy.
  • We were born to take risks.
  • Mess is inherent with spiritual growth.
  • Whose mat do I carry? Who carries me? 
  • In everything we do, we must ask: is it for the glory of God?

I felt blessed to be in a room of 270 small group leaders at National Community Church, and we're growing. (Did you know Pastor Mark's vision is to have 20 locations by 2020?!) I love the leadership team at NCC - they're passionate, creative and DRIVEN. I feel blessed to be a part of it all.