Friday, July 12, 2013

Epoch 2013 Nomination

A few weeks I go, I learned that I had been nominated for an Epoch award. If you have not heard of the Epoch awards, they seek to honor the unsung heroes that are quietly working to overcome poverty, drought, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, homelessness, and fear. There will be six winners chosen from a plethora of nominees and $50,000 will be awarded among the six winners. I had several reactions to learning of the nomination. First, I was humbled and honored to be in the nominations among the throngs of individuals and ministries. Every time I read the listing of the nominees and the work they are doing, I cannot help but feel like one guy trying to bail the ocean with a spoon. But I also am reminded that when an army of individuals do their part, a great deal of good can be accomplished. I keep getting hung up on the "unsung hero" part of their description, because I do not consider myself to be a hero with what we are doing. The real heroes to me are the volunteers that use their own automobiles every week to pickup bread and bagels and deliver them to the food pantries and residential programs within the community, the volunteers who drive our refrigerated truck to restaurants and big box grocery stores and load box after box of heavy frozen food and then offload them at local ministries, the volunteers that answer our phones, coordinate volunteers and routes each week, the volunteers that fill-in on a moments notice when one of our regular volunteers is sick or out of town, and the people that serve at the food pantries where we deliver the food that prepare it and distribute it to the folks in our community struggling with hunger. Those are the heroes in my eyes.

Second, I thought what a blessing it would be for Feed the Hungry Forsyth to receive some of the $50,000. To date this year, with the one refrigerated truck that we purchased at the end of 2012 and a small army of volunteers, we have collected and distributed 18,000lbs of food to the food pantries and residential programs in the county. We have already begun needing a second truck capable of handling pallets of food, and we are needing to hire a full time truck driver. I pray daily for more volunteers that can commit time to our cause since we cannot afford a full time driver, and I continue to wonder how we can move more food as it continues to become available.

I am grateful their are groups like the numerous generous caring people behind the Epoch Awards that desire to recognize the little people behind the scenes and their desire to shine a light on people working to make a positive difference in the world. And, I pray that everyone nominated benefits from being a part of the process.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Picking up Sea Shells

I have loved the beach as long as I can remember. One of my fondest memories as a small child was
going to Ft. Myers, Florida where my Grandfather retreated in the annual pilgrimage known as the flight of the blue hairs. Grandpa had a boat and loved to fish. I fondly remember the boat had a closed bow where he stored all of the life jackets, and this was where I would crawl up and sleep while the boat was in motion.

In high school, the local Baptist Church youth group held a retreat every Summer at Panama City, and I made sure that my parents signed me up for it. I could not have given two shakes about the roll-a-coaster rides and amusement parks. I just wanted to be on the beach. When I was old enough to drive, I convinced my parents to let me go to the beach with a couple high school friends for Spring Break. While the some of the other kids were trying fake IDs to get into the Red Rooster bar, I was walking the beach - multiple trips a day. During college, I was 60 miles away from Tybee Island and regularly found excuses for day trips.

Not having a lot of money on the majority of these trips to the beach, I had to forgo the jet skis and para sailing, but I did not really mind. Instead, I began picking up sea shells. I know without a doubt that my fascination with sea shells came directly from Grandpa. I still have some of the big Conch shells he collected. Those Conch shells along with starfish, sand dollars, and lamps and glass jars filled with sea shells adorn our home and remind me of the tranquility of the beach even when I am six hours away.

Originally, I took a great deal of care in selecting shells that were perfectly intact and defect free. The amount of shells I discarded back into the rolling foamy tide with a flick of the wrist over 20 years would probably fill a train car. But as I have gotten older, I have noticed a gradual change in my criteria for shell collection. I have noticed that my eyes have started appreciating the beauty of the shells that contain pit marks and scars of the storms they have weathered. They have character. They are not perfect. They have holes. They have broken edges. No two are the same.

As I look at these shells, I see beauty in their imperfections. And I wonder, is this how our God looks at us? He finds the beauty in our imperfections and weaknesses, and through those weaknesses, He is able to use us. Have you ever noticed that when you are struggling through the storms of life, the people you encounter that seem to have perfect lives are of little help in your struggle? Who do you gravitate towards? The people who have the battle scars of the storms they have weathered in their lives - the survivors. So why do we feel so inadequate and ill equipped to serve those hurting around us? We tell ourselves it is because our lives are such a screwed up mess, but the truth is, that is what qualifies us for service. He uses our brokenness as an area of strength.

We should not be amazed or shocked at the realization. After all, He has been choosing the unqualified and broken for years. Remember Moses? He had a stuttering problem. God chose him to lead His people out of Egypt and to speak in the Pharaoh's court. He chose a young shepherd boy to slay a giant that instilled fear in the hearts of trained warriors. He chose Saul, a guy that was running around killing Christians, to spread the Gospel. So, why could He not use you? You with your brokenness, with the scars of weathered storms. You with a past that other struggling people can relate.

I am standing on a beach, listening to the birds and the roar of a mighty ocean, marvelling at the beauty of imperfect shells. And something tells me that He is looking down on us admiring our imperfections and designing ways to use us in other peoples lives.