Repost from Facebook Notes July 5, 2015
First a note to all the Pastors out there who read my notes, please note the title is not in reference to the Book. I know it doesn’t have an S. 🙂
I am beginning a new series on Facebook, and the blog over at Hope and Change Ministries. God wasn’t terribly clear yet about which name the series itself should have, but both of these are part of the overall message, and more specifically, tonight’s message. I have spent the last two years learning to look for God’s power and miracles in small ways, and small things. Because I have looked, God has blessed me with seeing His hand often. But, like many of my fellow disciples of Christ, sometimes, my heart longs to see His full power unleashed in a way that is unmistakably Him. That longing does not come from doubts about God for most of us, as it did for some in the Bible who demanded signs and wonders. It comes instead from doubts about ourselves, and sometimes just a desire for a clear, unambiguous glimpse of our greatest Love.
It is often easy, in the age of rationality, to dismiss the small miracles as nothing more than the actions of mere human beings. It’s easy to find ourselves off the path of righteousness and into the realm of pride with activities we do for God that we know we could do ourselves if we really put our minds to it. One of the greatest fears I hear from many Christians is that of becoming like the Pharisees in the Gospels, so wrapped up in our own holiness that we will miss the point and go astray. It’s easy to find ourselves wondering sometimes when we’re chasing God if we aren’t really chasing our own desires or our own understanding, rather than His. So, now and then, we long for Him to open up the heavens and just do something so unmistakably Him that we can’t miss it.
Now and then, He answers that longing, often in the most unexpected of ways. At the risk of being asked not to do something I dearly love doing for God next year, I want to share with you the story of how He did that very thing for me, and a lot of other people, last week. Four years ago, God gave our pastor at the time a vision. He didn’t give Jared the whole vision, only part of it. He gave him a vision of a worship service in the middle of town that ended with fireworks. Jared knew there was more to it than that, and that he would need help to pull it off, and he invited me and Brandon, and we invited a few others, to help begin what would become the first annual Ball Ground Faith and Freedom Festival. These past four years have been interesting, beginning with 107 degree weather that first year after we prayed for no rain for three months. The turn out was a little low as you might imagine, but it gave us time to learn. The next year, the festival exploded, and we outgrew the space we were using, which was just as well. Last year, because the old venue had been re-sodded, we had to move down town to city park, which was great because they’d just put in a new stage and redone that park too. Every year, due to the itinerant system of the UMC, we’ve wound up having a different pastor, but everything else has been the same.
Until this year. This year, everything changed. This year, they put me in charge of the committee, and the rest of the committee stepped down either from the beginning or along the way. In addition, things had changed for me this year too. I’ve started working at the church. Where FFF, as we affectionately call it, used to be the single biggest thing I did for the church in a given year, I’m now involved in multiple events and committees on a regular basis, and often find myself heading up activities. And, if that weren’t enough, I knew very early in the process that we’d be going through a pastor change this year, the Sunday before FFF. I’m also the Lay Delegate for my church, which due to it being an election year, took a bit of extra time, and conference was only a week before the festival. As you might imagine, I’ve been a little overloaded.
I also learned something about myself this year. I am lousy at running committees. I’m pretty decent, with God’s grace and help, at working on a committee. I’m even pretty decent at short-term work groups. I’m good at solo projects too, for the most part. But, I am simply not equipped, by nature, or apparently by God’s Gifts, for running a committee. I can’t make people show up to meetings. I can’t find the balance between holding folks accountable and recognizing that they too are volunteers and have lives. I don’t do well with demanding progress, or keeping people on task, and sooner or later I will give up trying and just do what needs to be done. That happened finally in February, four months after we should have been started with planning for the year.
I rolled into March with a Sponsor mailing that didn’t generate much in the way of sponsors because it was too close to the deadline for their information. I rolled into April with no press release out, and only two of the bands lined up. I rolled into May with still only three of the bands lined up, the website not completely updated with the information I did have, and a complete lack of the Facebook promotion I’d done the previous year. I rolled into June, two weeks before the festival, and just before leaving for conference, with an empty band slot, and no kid’s zone lined up. The day before the festival, those two things had by God’s grace been taken care of, but I hadn’t spoken directly to the music folks yet, and I discovered while waiting to see if the thunder would stop long enough for us to decorate, that the port-a-potties had not been dropped off as expected. And the National Weather Service was predicting 100% chance of thunderstorms all afternoon on Saturday. The festival was to start at 3pm.
In all the things I did not get done and the weather looking to be very nasty, the festival should have been a complete disaster. I was responsible. There was even a little part of me that was almost hoping it would storm, because as least then the failure I foresaw for the next day wouldn’t have been entirely my fault. I’d taken to telling myself, for motivation, and almost as a plea the opposite of a silly Facebook comment that had been going around. This was my circus, and these were my monkeys. Except, they weren’t. I had forgotten something amazingly important when I started focusing on all the things I hadn’t done as well as I’d wanted to. Something I have known for four years.
This isn’t my festival. It isn’t even my church’s or my community’s festival. This is God’s festival. He gave Jared the vision for it, and has continued to call us out into the community for a day of celebrating our faith and the freedom we have to share it with the world in this nation. He has guided and blessed it every step of the way. And in spite of my short comings, and my failings, and all the changes this year, He is God. The Almighty, the All Powerful, the All Knowing God. He had a plan, and part of that plan was to show the world His glory in a little town in North Georgia the Saturday before the 4th of July.
This year was the most successful festival we’ve had. The number of vendors was a slight bit smaller, but the ones I asked, instead of telling me as they have in earlier years that they did okay, and they loved the event enough to come back, instead said they did great. The bands were amazing, and you could feel the Holy Spirit rolling off the stage. The sermon, given by our brand new pastor, before he even officially began, was perfect for the event and Spirit filled. The kids had a blast, and I kept getting reports back from folks saying how grateful the people they talked to were that we provided this time where God’s children could come together for a day of fun and worship.
I could’ve maybe looked at all that, even knowing how unprepared I felt going into it, and patted myself on the back and said job well done. Except for the very coolest part of God’s miracle that day. It made the news, though I doubt the reporters knew why it happened. All of northern Cherokee County got several inches of rain over the course of the day. There were bright red bands of thunder storms marching straight for us all day long. The news reported all of Cherokee got those inches, except this one little dot in far North Cherokee/South Pickens, where there was no measurable rainfall. We got a little ten minute downpour that was just enough to break the heat and give a bunch of strangers in a strange land a chance to chat as they crowded under overhangs and tents to stay dry until the music started again.
I’ve been needing a big miracle. Not because I doubt Him. But because it has been a year of waiting, a year of being quiet, a year of letting things near and dear to me pass me by to focus on things that often seem inconsequential. It has been a year of looking for God in the small things, and sometimes straining to see Him. It has been a year that has sometimes led me to doubt my understanding of what He has called me to do. Coming on the heels of a week of turmoil in the world, and the pressure that’s been building to once again start speaking into the chaos, I cannot think of a better way for Him to have blessed me by showing His amazing power.
Be blessed and be a blessing.