A mustard seed? Really?

Last week I talked about seeking small graces. Then I read Melissa’s response. And re-read it.

“I have to remember to stop spinning my wheels of doing and practice Being in Christ’s Grace and Love. As I walk through life grounded in God’s Grace, life takes on a spirit of peace and love.” Melissa

It had seemed reasonable, sensible, not asking too much, not being pushy or presumptuous, to be content with small graces. But I began to realize it’s like saying one lettuce leaf and a bite of an apple make a meal. I couldn’t live very well on that diet. light-meal

And my spirit wasn’t created for a miserly grace diet, either.

God held nothing back. He entered our world (that’s what the incarnation is all about), interacted and sacrificed for us so he could lavish his grace on us, his favor, all that we can never earn.

And with the death and resurrection of Jesus, all of the things that we do that negate life have been transformed. He has breathed new life into us.


It is a relief that I don’t have to try harder,

Or stay content among the rocks.

Last weekend I heard a great sermon about the story Jesus told his disciples when they asked him to give them more faith. He said if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains.

A mustard seed? Really?

mustard seed with a dime

When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?” “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus.Matt 17:19-20 MSG

From the sermon, by Rev. Charleston D. Wilson, The Church of the Redeemer (underline mine)

When we face tough decisions and hard challenges in life, we not only have the challenge itself to deal with — the external issue — but we also have the internal — let’s say spiritual — struggle as well.

And that internal, spiritual struggle is rooted in that question we often ask ourselves – the same questions the Apostles were asking internally. Do I really have a quantity of faith — enough spiritual oomph, if you will — to deal with difficult decisions and challenges?

And, I’d like to suggest to you right here and right now that the answer to that question is a resounding, loud and clanging: “no!”

You hear me correctly.
No, even on our best days, we lack enough faith, if we’re measuring it by quantity, to face much of anything – let alone a big decision or challenge.

And this is actually good news. And this is actually freeing news. And getting in touch with this is good and emancipating news, because, meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow, and dealing with life in general, isn’t about a supposed quantity of faith at all.

Being a Christian, a man or woman of faith, is about the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, who is alive, and whose grace is sufficient.

Another way to say it is this: no, we don’t have enough, because He is enough!

When I became a Christian at ten, my grandmother gave me a necklace with a mustard seed inside clear resin. I wore it for years, trying hard to have enough faith to move mountains. After all, the seed was so small, surely I could do that much!

But I didn’t move any mountains. Many of my good intentions went haywire. Then, I spent years dwelling in regret – sure I’d failed the mustard seed test.

And wanting so much to make up for it.

When Jesus began speaking grace to me, personally, I even argued with him!

In a way, I guess I still am.

But the truth that is setting me free is, not only is it not about what I do, it isn’t even how much I believe. It’s not about me.

It’s about WHO I BELIEVE.

Every time I fail or struggle. Every time pain stabs me or someone I care about. Every time darkness seems to be winning here or around the world. Every time I don’t know how to pray — I focus on the one who created the world, created me, and creates new life.

Then the peace comes.

“Unbelievable” –but true.

And totally liberating.

Do you struggle with faith?
Have there been times or events that made faith hard?

Seeking small graces

My health finally stabilized. And after a long recovery from hip repair surgery in November, I was walking further with my dog and playing with my grand-kids. Then something painful “popped” in my hip, and I’ve spent the last months in varying degrees of pain — walking, sitting or standing. For weeks I’ve battled an infection that made me a semi-invalid last year. My body clearly wasn’t up to the fight and I’ve had to start antibiotics. (Not simple, since I’m allergic to way too many, as well as still trying to heal my gut from last year’s antibiotic siege.) I’ve worked hard to get healthy and whole, free to engage with others, join in the lives of my family, return to teaching Bible classes, finish editing my books and complete another, to live a vibrant, meaningful life. As things seemed to be spinning out again, I’ve wondered, even prayed, “What am I doing wrong?”

If God would just tell me, I’d do it!

There must be a key.

Is there something important I’m not doing? Leaving out?

Every time this song, Thy Will by Hillary Scott, comes on the radio, my mind and emotions downshift.

When I’m working so hard to do it right, am I actually exhibiting lack of faith? After all, it’s not all about me, and I’m not God.

It’s hard to find a balance between accepting life as it comes from the hand of God, and fighting the good fight as we are called to do.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I Timothy 6:12

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest. Exodus 14:14 AMPC

How do you thread that needle?

All I can do is recall what I know is true.

photo by Jack H Thompson, Jr

photo by Jack H Thompson, Jrhttps://www.bible.com/bible/97/jas.1

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.                                               Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

photo by Jack H Thompson Jr

photo by Jack H Thompson Jr https://www.bible.com/bible/97/pro.19

In place of the questions, I begin a new search.

Seeking small graces.


Naming what comes into my life today as a gift.

Trusting the giver.

Trusting the hands that gave them.

And, in the end, remembering this life is brief.

And there’s more to each day than we can ever see or understand.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Cor 4:16-18 MSG

That is enough.

You may be facing far greater challenges now, or will in the future.
Do you struggle with chronic pain or illness or disappointment? How do you handle it, react to it?

Notes to readers:

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A need I cannot ignore

This is not a normal post from me. It is an urgent need, and I hope you are not offended by my sharing it here.

Around ten years ago a young woman came to sub as a piano player for our contemporary service. A line of young children followed her in, sat where she instructed, and behaved amazingly while we practiced, and throughout the service. Afterward I learned Nikki and Brian Seiller and their children had traveled from Zimbabwe with nothing by suitcases in hand to start a new life in the United States, fleeing the chaos in their country, seeking a safe refuge to raise the children.

We quickly became friends and I’ve cherished her love for people and the Lord, her open heart and deep spirit. She plays and sings with tremendous inspiration, and always inspires me.

Her parents remained in Zimbabwe, her mother, Aurell Olivier, intent on continuing to help orphans, whose situations grew more desperate every day. About six years ago thugs broke in at night and beat them mercilessly, knocking out her mother’s front teeth and almost killing her father. He never fully recovered, and three years ago died of a massive heart attack.

After his death, his “friend” and business partner seized everything, even Nikki’s childhood home. Nevertheless, her Mum has remained in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, to help others.

However, Aurell just received a blow she cannot recover from alone. Years ago, when life was “normal,” they purchased a home in South Africa for retirement, and had been leasing it out to cover mortgage payments. (Being outside of Zimbabwe, it is the only asset that survived the economic and cultural destruction in her country.) The bank just gave notice that, since the house was in his name only, they are calling the mortgage and will not give her a new mortgage because of “her age.” They will auction the house on September 23th, unless Nikki’s mother is able to pay off the mortgage for $20,000.00.

Nikki and Brian have constantly worked long days and weekends since arriving in Sarasota to make a home for their children. She has never asked for handouts, and would not for herself. But her mother’s need is too great.

Only a massive response from friends and strangers will help her mother keep the only thing left for her future.

Aurell has spent a lifetime helping others who can never pay her back. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for her to be cared for now?

If you feel inclined, here is the GoFundMe link.


You can read the story in detail there and see pictures of the family.

Please “like” and share this post. Many small gifts can fill the need.

And pray for AURELL OLIVIER.

Thank you.

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress James 1:27 HSB