Last month, I finished making a wonderful quilt for my sister comprised entirely of batik fabrics that are hand-dyed and explode with brilliant color. The pattern she selected for the work required a great deal of trimming and produced a large portion of very small remnants. As I was tidying up my workspace after the project was completed, I picked up the scrap bucket so that I could empty the contents into the trash bin and was mesmerized by how beautiful and interesting the discarded slivers of fabric were. It grieved me to think of them just being thrown away and my crazy brain went into overdrive trying to come up with a sane way to rescue them. [This is a problem for me – trying to save anything that might possibly be used in a future craft project!]
I remembered a story my mom told me years ago about a woman in her group that put her small scraps outside in the early Spring so the birds could use them for their nests. And that idea made me so happy because I know that birds use all kinds of things to make their little homes. I’ve seen Christmas tinsel, string, shredded paper, and even soft, furry Dusty Miller leaves intertwined with the twigs and grasses. All manner of materials. I was elated at the prospect of seeing the colors worked into the lining, bottom, and sides as some house-proud mama bird decked out her place getting things ready for the eggs that would need to be kept warm. But even though it was great fun to let this fantasy of Spring bliss run around in my head, it seemed as though the amount of my joy was disproportional to the actual reward for not wasting something that was really just pretty rubbish. Something in my spirit was certain that this notion was pleasing to God, but I couldn’t figure out a reason why that would make any sense. I’m sure He values being frugal and not being wasteful, but that seemed rather mundane and I was feeling some revelation brewing.
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said that this is the way God responds to the smallest acts of faith. The kindness that has become second nature. The grace that no longer feels like a sacrifice.
It’s the cry of our heart to do something grand or important to glorify the Lord. Something that really counts. So, when our lives are laid out in a manner that our responsibilities and priorities are designated, or we find ourselves in a season of intense obligation or challenges that restrict our ability to make commitments or become involved in complex Kingdom activities, we can fall prey to feelings of insignificance or invisibility. We are tempted to believe the lie that we don’t matter and that we have no positive impact on the lives of others. Our Father says, “Nay,” to this.
It's absolutely true that impressive personal efforts and robust ministries are highly celebrated – both in heaven and on the earth – and having the opportunity to participate in something on a large scale is an intense blessing. I think of this as forest ministry, and it can be amazing, especially when the Holy Spirit is allowed to run the show – it is powerful! But the heart of the Father is with the trees. We know this because Jesus told us that when we see Him, we see the Father. (John 14:9) And while Jesus had many forest events where He taught the multitudes, He worked His healing miracles in personal, one-on-one encounters. And that arena is open to anyone at any time – to have a tree ministry like Jesus, with precious little earthly resources, but an abundance of heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, why is God overjoyed with our small acts of faith, consistent kindness, and easy grace? When we pray our little prayers all day long over people and situations with no fanfare and no doubt that He hears and considers each one? When we replace the need for retaliation with compassion and acts of service? When we find ourselves speaking words of life over people who make bad choices and decisions and people who trespass all over us again and again? Could it be that these are signs of our transformation into sons and daughters who are more Christ-like? Perhaps He sees evidence that we are taking our relationship with the Holy Spirit seriously. Or that we are finally getting it. We are bearing good and righteous fruit, even when our world of ministry is small and familiar, and our boundaries are tight.
And this is what dispels the lie – every time a person receives a small act of kindness from you or eye-contact acknowledgement, every time you pray for someone that you see struggling or that God places on your heart, every time you react in kindness rather than anger or frustration, a small, colorful scrap is woven into the content of that person’s being. A tiny remnant that helps them to believe that they matter in a world that overlooks them. Because you matter in the Kingdom, they matter, and the Holy Spirit gains a toehold and begins His work. The spirit world is a very connected existence and the more a person is tethered to believers, the more they are drawn into the grace of God and the more likely they are to step into a relationship with Jesus that leads to eternal salvation through the blood of the Lamb. Your Father sees every scrap you weave, and each one is His greatest pleasure.
I am so thankful that God has given me authority over every situation. There is nothing that can stop me from having a meaningful prayer life. There is nothing that can stand in the way of me digging into the Word when I need to be close to Him. And, there is no evil entity that can force me to give in to the unrighteous urges of my flesh. But I am most thankful that my failures are forgiven through repentance and grace, and that the record of my sin is erased from the memory of God (Hebrews 8:12), because this allows me to continue in my small ministry to the people around me without feeling shame over the times that I fall or carrying the weight of hypocrisy on my shoulders. I am free to operate at whatever level He deems useful in whichever season I find myself running the race.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be called into a forest ministry, but that’s okay because I know that my Father gets a big joy kick out of what I do for the trees. As He does for you. Keep tossing color into the world and be confident that it makes a difference. Be assured that it brings a measure of hope and a measure of healing to the people that you pray for and the people that you touch. And be aware that He sees you at all times, and He is well pleased with the shower of glory that you bring Him.
John 14:9 “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Philippians 2:1-30 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, ...