Sunday, April 24, 2011

Never Enough

By Jane Rubietta

An exhausting day, full of demanding people. Cranky as newborns, the disciples want only to be alone with Jesus. Nice thought, but a few thousand other cranky kvetching people also glom onto the Messiah. The sun moves toward the west. Bellies empty, replaced by growling. Both stomachs and attitudes.

“Send them away, Jesus, so they can go buy something to eat,” the disciples demand (Mark 6:36).

Jesus’ agenda intends more than filling people’s tummies. “You give them something to eat!”

Thrown back on their own resources, they shrug their shoulders, pull up almost-empty hands from near-empty pockets, and throw their protests like pennies on the table. “What, we’re supposed to spend a couple hundred denarii and feed these rascally people? Who invited them, anyway?” (my rendition, 6:37). You might as well ask a homeless person to throw a feast for everyone at the county fair on two-for-one day.

Jesus must grin. His followers are right where he wants them. He wants them to inventory of their resources. “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” (v. 38)

They go, they look, they return with five measly loaves of bread and a couple of fish—not even enough to feed the disciples, let alone the hungry masses. Talk about empty pockets.

Every day, we run into people with needs greater than our resources: they need more love than we have, more help than we can offer, more wisdom than we know, more handouts than we have hands. But Jesus’ message doesn’t change: “How many loaves do you have? Go look!”

I wish I really listened to these words, daily, rather than reacting from emptiness. Like the disciples, I never have enough money, wisdom, love, patience, or even food for the big hungry kids clomping through our house. Not enough fruits of the Spirit to fill a teacup, let alone feed a mauling mewing multitude. Cupboard inventory forces me to acknowledge my inability. I am not enough, I do not have enough, there is no way I am adequate.

Maybe Jesus grins here, saying, “Right. You’ll never have enough, be enough, do enough.” But we don’t know that until we come up like old Mother Hubbard. No bone for the dog, no bread for the mob.

The disciples come back with their pathetic rations. “This is all we have, Jesus. It just won’t work.” And we must do the same: “This is all the love, attention, time, patience that I can spare. All I have.” We turn over our puny loaves to Jesus, all our inadequacies and not-enoughnesses. Then we see him transform them into everything the crowd needs. Not because of us, or our giftedness, or the depth of our commitment or compassion. Because of Jesus.

So what’s in your breadbasket? Not enough, I’ll bet. But hand it over at the next tricky encounter, the next needy person, the next demanding event or contentious colleague. Watch Christ turn your not-enoughnesses into just enough, with a take-home sack besides.

Because it’s really a divine set-up. We are not smart enough, wise enough, loving enough, funny enough, patient enough. But with Jesus, never enough is always enough.

This first appeared in Indeed magazine. Reprinted with permission of author.
Jane Rubietta speaks internationally and is an award-winning author of 11 books, including her most recent, "Come Along: Journey to a More Intimate Faith." For more information, see

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Breathing In

By Tracey Bianchi I’m a midwestern girl coming out of her winter shell this month. Flip flops are lost companions just now crawling out from under beds and hidden closet shelves. I let out a long, icy sigh as I see daffodils fighting with the frozen ground and magnolia buds cracking open. Every time the seasons flip and winter caves into spring I find my soul stunned again at the majesty and simple goodness of being outside. In Chicago, three long months of the year are spent at temperatures below freezing. Then come summer we actually have the audacity to lament the chewy, ninety degree air of July. Both we fight by flipping on heat and air conditioning. We race from climate controlled homes to air conditioned cars, from heated grocery stores to humidity free schools. If I’m not careful I’ll spend half my life inside. So when I discover again the glory of God as revealed in Creation I confess that it’s hard to grasp drinking from God’s deep rivers when I drink from a faucet. Righteousness like mountains and justice like the sea? Nope. The elevation of Chicago is 597 feet. Try to climb that. Burning bushes? Have yet to see one in the suburbs. God’s love extending to the skies? Well, I do look up during worship and count the beams in the sanctuary but I cannot see past the building to get to God’s extensive skies. Regardless of where you live, the trajectory of American life has most of us trying to eek out a life separated from the vastness of God’s Creation unless we determine otherwise. God speaks to us every day; all of Creation sings the glory of God. His mercy and goodness reach to the heavens. This year’s liturgical calendar brings the Lenten journey and Earth Day into a partnership and as leaders we have a unique opportunity to help those we serve connect with God in Creation. Our Christian holy week (Good Friday) shares the same calendar square as Earth Day. Perhaps on this day we should fast and pray, worship and dream, cry and yearn for God like Good Friday and Holy Week beg us to do. And then, step outside and invite others to join us in soaking up the majesty of Creation during this emotion soaked week. Take the opportunity to literally live OUT your influence. Live it outside this week if you can and invite others to do the same. The God of the universe is calling you to notice him in the sunsets and the majesty of your backyard. Breathe new life into your leadership this week by breathing in some fresh air. Tracey Bianchi is a pastor, activist and author trying to do her best to manage life from the suburbs of Chicago. She’s a blogger ( and the author of Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Saving the Planet (Zondervan, 2010).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rethinking Influence

By Suanne Camfield Live out your influence. This phrase goes through my head a dozen times a day. If it sounds familiar to you-and I'm hoping it does-it's because it's the tagline for FullFill™. When I became the blog manager for the Weekly ReFill a year ago, these four words -live out your influence-were simply a catchy slogan that rattled occasionally in my brain as I sought to drum up bloggers for the Weekly ReFill that lands in your inbox each Monday morning. But over the course of the year, that tagline has morphed into a mantra causing me to rethink my idea of what influence really means. I will confess that, at their worst (or perhaps their best), my musings about influence include my name scrolling at the top of the credits: the writer in me always lands on the bestseller list; the blogger in me with thousands of followers who perpetually "like" me; the speaker in me in sold-out ministry venues. Even the activist in me seems to wind up in an interview with Anderson Cooper. Now one quick distinction: I'm not talking about motivation. I think we can agree that our desire to live out our influence stems from a genuine hunger to use our gifts to impact the world for Christ. And while checking our ego is a frequent and necessary discipline, what I'm referring to here is not narcissism, but a tendency to confuse influence with our culture's warped definition of success, a definition that skews us towards grandeur in the name of Jesus. Not sure? When's the last time you fretted over the number of people attending your ministry gathering or weekend retreat? Or beat yourself up over how many families you're connected with through your neighborhood or school? What about the last time you agonized over the prestige of your job, how many friends you have on Facebook or who follows you on Twitter? In a sincere desire to use our gifts to their maximum potential, we often feel defeated when we're not doing it in a way that seems big enough. When my mind goes careening off this cliff, I fear my idea of influence is more aligned to the results of a reality TV show than rooted in a biblical worldview. And so in a desire for the renewal of my mind, I'm replacing ambitious musings with faces of people who have made a difference in my life and the lives of people I know. I'm turning my eyes outward, actively observing people of influence whose best work goes largely unnoticed. I'm digging into the Word to study once again how Jesus humbly took time to meet people in their brokenness and heal their open wounds. In the process, I'm continually reminded that most times influence is not big and flashy. It's not done in large gulps or in front of the masses, but in small quiet doses over long periods of time. It doesn't take inordinate gifts as much as it takes diligence, patience and faithfulness. It takes a willingness to walk alongside people when we have nothing to gain, to share the parts of us we'd rather hold tight-fisted, to put others' needs above our busy schedules and self-serving agendas. It requires consistently and persistently putting one foot in front of the other as we seek to be an influence in whatever sphere God has for us today. So how about you? How are you living out your influence? Suanne Camfield is a writer, speaker and the blog manager for FullFill™. She lives with her family in Chicago and blogs at