Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
"He's big (Goliath) but God's bigger
And when I think of Him that's when I figure
With His help little guys can do big things too."
It was one of those weeks. Long and busy. I think I did more driving in the last four days than I've done in the past four weeks combined. It was a nice change of pace, though. It was pretty exciting to actually get to implement one of our new campaigns. After months of conceptualization and preparation, we were finally at the point of launching our big idea into action!
Wednesday morning I dropped my daughter off at preschool and cruised over to Samford University to cover a shift at our THINK table. I was to be going solo that morning (no pun intended...). It was bound to be one of our slower shifts based on the university's class schedule. I didn't mind. I didn't feel prepared to face a crowd all by my lonesome, and this way I'd be able to be more intentional with the few students who did stroll by.
But honestly, about an hour into my duties, I started to get a little bored. Foot traffic was sporadic and I had too much time with my thoughts. My thoughts can be good company, but sometimes they get a little serious if left unchecked. By the end of my shift it was hard to say whether I felt encouraged or discouraged.
I was full of enthusiasm upon my morning arrival at the table. Overall, it is always encouraging to have any opportunity to tell folks about the ministry. I've written it here before, but every quarter that is donated to the ministry is welcomed and deeply appreciated. I felt that appreciation Wednesday morning staring down into our collection jar full of nickels and pennies. It made me happy.
Still, I knew it was going to take a lot more than a handful of nickels and pennies to do much good for the vulnerable children at Ranch on Jesus...not to mention the multitudes of other hurting people in Uganda.
My mind turned to Scott and some recent conversations we'd been having. I tried to see through his eyes and imagine everything he was witnessing and the people he was with. Those formerly barefoot orphans in Mabaale. The bright student unable to afford university. The blank faces of street kids begging in Kampala. The crippled men on the sidewalks unfit to work. The Christian woman abused by her drunk husband. The pastors working tirelessly without pay to change things.
It is estimated that every six seconds one child somewhere in the world dies from malnutrition. SIX SECONDS. Ten children per minute. Six hundred children per hour. That means in the time I had been standing with my cups at Samford that morning over 1,200 little people had died somewhere on the globe. That was just during one shift.
My coins didn't feel so mighty anymore.
I felt like Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon - trying to dig myself out of the dessert with a pair of chopsticks. Did I really believe what I was preaching about spare change adding up to make a difference? Could we even begin to make any dent in global poverty with a bunch of blue cups and a few hundred college students? I felt like a single rain drop in the ocean, a drop not even large enough to make a ripple.
Still conversing with my thoughts, I packed up my gear and rushed off to pick Vivian up from preschool. She greeted me joyfully, and as always we turned on the car stereo so she could listen to Bob and Larry. Veggie Tale's Greatest Hits is her musical preference for every excursion these days, and she insists that we start the CD afresh beginning with track one each time we key up the engine. This means by the time we turn into our neighborhood we'll be listening to Jr. Asparagus sing about fighting goliath...or in his case, a giant pickle.
I know all the songs by heart. I usually tune them out, but in a weak effort to drown out my exhaustingly dreary thoughts I began to sing along. As we approached the house I cranked up the volume and Vivian kicked her Keds in the air with the rhythm. We rounded the corner to pull up our road, and I couldn't help it. I burst into laughter.
Here was my answer from the Lord...coming straight from the squeaky voice of an animated asparagus. "God's bigger."
The song Viv and I were enjoying comes from a Veggie Tales film depicting the story of David, a small shepherd boy who goes out to face a Philistine giant, Goliath, in one on one combat. We all know the story. Right? It's one of those basic ones we master before grade school. A staple in the children's diet of Old Testament Bible tales. "Only a boy named David....only a little sling..."
I don't know how the historical account of David vs. Goliath got classified as predominantly felt board material. As endearing and valuable as "Dave and the Giant Pickle" (the title of the Veggie Tales version) is, the Biblical account of David and Goliath wasn't primarily targeted for little people. It was targeted for grownups...for big "little people."
Most of us well intended "big little people" like to use the story of David and Goliath for kids (minus the graphic decapitation scene) because the lesson is so simple and vivid. Boy believes God is mighty enough to use him to take down a giant that an entire army is afraid of. With only a sling, some pebbles and faith, David nails Goliath between the eyes and he's toast. We want to clearly show our children while they're young that with God all things are possible. That when we go out in the name of the Lord, we can defeat the enemy against all odds...just like David did Goliath.
The problem is when we grow up we look back fondly on David and Goliath the way we do Santa Claus. A nice fable with good principles. A shepherd boy with a sling couldn't slay a giant any sooner than a fat old man could fit down every chimney in the world over the course of one night! Impossible. Or maybe it was possible back then for them. But God just doesn't do things like that anymore...or at least we haven't seen him do any...have we?
When none of us kids went home from Sunday School and saw giants tumble in our backyards, we started to wonder if the story had any clout. Most of us got practical sometime in our teen years. It happened gradually, but eventually we began to function as pragmatists, assenting with our minds that God is able to do ANYTHING and defeat ANY foe, but our actions demonstrated that our hearts aren't so sure.
My favorite section in the Veggie Tales rendition, and where I really started giggling in the car is when King Saul begins singing out his attempt to help prepare David for the impossible task ahead of him. When King Saul first heard of David's confidence to approach Goliath he replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth."
If only I had a dollar for every time that reasoning was defied in the Bible! Over and over again God chooses the youngest, weakest, most unlikely candidate to perform His most special missions. Moses, Gideon, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Timothy. I encourage myself with that knowledge all the time. God works through inexperienced young people. He works mightily.
Once King Saul agrees to let this crazy shepherd boy face the giant he does his best to prepare him for the battle. He gives David what he deems to be the very best tools: his own personal armor and sword. He tries to shape David into a warrior he feels more confident in backing and presenting on the field. Saul doesn't think David has much of a chance, but at least this might help improve his odds a bit.
Over the years we've had many different folks consult us offering their perspectives on ways to improve our ministry. Most of them revolve around methods of marketing and image. I know these various sources meant well. Some of the ideas were good, and quite insightful. But on most occasions the pros giving us the consult just didn't "fit."
A couple of years ago as we strolled down a Chattanooga sidewalk after a meeting, Scott looked at me thoughtfully and said, "I feel like David when King Saul tried to send him out to fight Goliath dressed up in all that royal armor." YES! I thought. He hit the nail on the head. It was as if it wasn't enough to say we're going out confidently in the name of the Lord, just as we are, to take down the giant suffering of children in Uganda. We needed more gear. We needed some shiney armor and a big sword. It just looked too ridiculous for us to stand up against such a powerful foe with such little protection or provision. Wouldn't we get squashed? Would anyone actually be crazy enough to follow us? How would we ever survive?
But just as David looked and felt ridiculous in Saul's armor, so Scott and I felt ridiculous trying to pretend we were something we were not. We were young and relatively inexperienced. We didn't have armies of accountants, lawyers, and PR people. We didn't want them either. We had no desire to pitch our ministry as a sales opportunity or business idea. We didn't want to guilt people into giving by playing with their emotions or exploiting stories and images of innocent children. Maybe in the short run we'd raise a lot more money if we dressed up our "look" with shiny campaigns, impressively calculated financial plans, and the perfect strategy. Maybe we'd look more like a capable warrior, someone you'd want to get up and go fight behind...or at least pay to do your fighting for you. But in our case, we didn't feel that was God's way. We just wanted to be wise, simple, transparent and honest. We wanted to plainly and straightforwardly do what Jesus said. No tricks. No gimmicks. We'd just have to let the Holy Spirit do His work in spite of our shortcomings.
In the Bible God doesn't often use big awesome warriors or put together people to advance His Kingdom. He uses unarmed shepherd boys, chronic liars, men with speech impediments, unwed mothers and impulsive fishermen. And then there is Jesus, who gave himself over to death, whose ministry "image" was not what most marketers would dub polished. He drove people off with his unusual teachings and straightforward rebukes. If these are the types of people and efforts God uses, why would I want to pretend to be anything otherwise?
Please don't think I'm advocating some foolish willy-nilly approach to kingdom work. I DO believe in the integrity of training, accountability, engaging creativity and other useful and practical means of serving. I don't think God wanted the armies of Israel to just sit around getting lax and then suddenly when a foe approached get up and expect some sort of phenomenal miracle. Yes, we are to trust him, but inside that trust we are to act with all the natural ability and brain he created us with.
Yet there comes a point where using that ability and brain starts to edge out the simple trust God asks us to place in His power. We get more and more confident in our carefully designed battle plans and aware enough of our skills that pretty soon we are no different than the armies of Israel, standing on the sidelines, weighing the human odds and figuring this was one battle we could never win.
Maybe that is why the church as a whole does very little to address sin around the world. Its just TOO BIG. We try to manage our personal problems and vices. We tackle projects that seem more manageable or fixable. We continue to let these Goliaths traipse about the planet, insulting God's people and filling the air with ugly noise because we don't want to deal with them.
But I don't want to be like that. I want to be the little girl who sat in Sunday School confident that any foe could be conquered by me if I just called on the name of the LORD. That is what Jr. Asparagus is teaching my toddler, and that is what I want her to see her mommy doing every day. I want to say with little David, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
So here he is, my personal, grown up Goliath. Poverty and the enslaving web of social injustice in Africa. He is HUGE, snaring many helpless souls in his suffocating grasp. He is a minion of the evil one, terrorizing the majority of the world, challenging God's goodness, peace, mercy and love. He makes me angry. He makes me mad. Just like Goliath he taunts the servants of the Living God, making us doubt the Lord's promises and provision for us, acting as if he is the one with authority when he has no dominion at all. That is why I can say confidently with the shepherd boy David:
"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."
I refuse to sit on the sidelines. I will fight him for the battle is the LORD's and the whole world must know that there is a God. He does not save by sword or by spear. So what do I go out to face the giant with each morning? A tiny little ministry that is always short on cash. A handful of empty blue cups. I know it seems impossible. I know I look a fool. But I believe. At the core of my being I believe just what Jr. Asparagus sang "He's big, but God's bigger."
He will hand Goliath over to me, over to His people. Through the large victories and the small ones. Now and in the future. He will give all of them over into our hands.
Then one little stone went up in the air and the sling went round and round
One little stone went up in the air and the sling went round and round
And round and round and round and round
And round and round and round
Then one little stone went up in the air.......................
And the giant came tumbling down!