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Posts Tagged ‘Elijah’

head in the sandHow often do we blame someone else for our situation? In the extreme, it’s a victim mentality, but in small doses, it’s a type of laziness. If it’s not my fault, I don’t have to do anything about it. I also call it a “head in the sand” approach to life.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is that you, the one who troubles Israel?”
Elijah answered, “I haven’t troubled Israel; you and your father’s house have! You did as much when you deserted the Lord’s commands and followed the Baals. [I Kings 18: 17-18, CEB]

A young friend of mine demonstrated the extent to which blame can be stretched. Apparently, he had checked out a video game from the library and lost it or misplaced it or loaned it to someone else (I don’t really know the details). Since I work at the library, I know how these things work: a series of emails or texts or phone calls go out to the patron alerting them to a potential fine. At some point, the item is coded as lost and the patron’s cost jumps from a fine to a full replacement cost of the item (this takes several we reached my friend for his lost video game. He was livid at the cost: $75! And the next statement? It’s all that librarian’s fault for making me get a library card. His anger justified because it wasn’t his fault. He’s not the first library user to blame staff for fines and fees.

A more egregious example happened to my own daughter, who we adopted at fifteen and assumed she was an orphan since we had death certificates on both of her parents. Instead, it turned out the birth mother had hit the skids and lost all of her identity papers and did not surface again until some two years after our teen was adopted. And of all things, it was on Russian Facebook that they found one another. But instead of joy of discovery, the mother blamed our daughter for her losses and literally said, “If you hadn’t left, none of this would have happened.”

blameThese stories sound outrageous but are we any better? Am I? How many times have I kicked a chair after I ran into it or cursed a tree limb that connected with my head or bad talked the bank when my check bounced? And of course, while driving, it’s always the other guy!

The first step in changing the rules of the blame game is to identify the moment. If I can catch myself (that means close my mouth before the words come out), I might even be able to stem off the worst of it. And only then do I have even a hair’s breath of chance to figure out why I am passing the buck. Am I afraid of how I will be perceived by others? Do I feel that taking responsibility will diminish me? Does it make me feel better to shift the blame to another person?

In and of itself, the word “blame” has a negative connotation. It carries accusation and condemnation. Just the word alone feels like a burden. And I’m thinking that’s the problem. Instead of shifting the blame, it may be that the paradoxical Christian thing would be to simply accept responsibility (when true) and give God a chance to work with the truth.

Taking responsibility when we err is no fun, but its merits outweigh the negatives in the long run. It’s part of the learning curve and character building. I am not encouraging anyone to become a scapegoat or to become a martyr, taking the weight of guilt when it’s not ours to take. But when our own mistakes and choices bring consequences, then we must confess that truth to ourselves first and thereby invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to bear it and eventually change.

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This is a partner verse to the previous message about training myself up to be Godly — also gift-based. Can’t train if I don’t know what I’m training to do and can’t nurture (opposite of neglect) my gifts if I don’t know what they are.

I Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Back in the day, Timothy had a specific experience when a group of elders prayed over him and layed on hands (a practice mentioned in a variety of places in scripture – a focused prayer). That day, apparently, a gift was given. What did that look like? Did someone speak the gift and another verify it? Did the Holy Spirit fall upon Timothy in some kind of dramatic way like a “tongue of fire?” Did Timothy, himself, proclaim a revelation of the gift?

We’ll never really know. But what about me? Is there a gift for me?

Many people I know believe this was one of the spiritual gifts (like those listed in I Corinthians 12 or Romans 12). But if that is true, how does one neglect a gift of that kind? If I have the “gift of prophecy,” let’s say (the speaking forth of God’s message or in some cases, foretelling of future events), how would I nurture it? How would I neglect it? Is it just a matter of using it? But how do I “use” a gift? It’s not like I can wield a prophecy at will. If it’s a gift, then it’s pretty much up to the giver to decide when to pass it along. In this case, that would be the Holy Spirit.

There are some people who believe they can find out what their gifts are by taking an online assessment test either here or here or even here. It used to be that such assessments were the domain of fringe churches and primarily independent churches, but now, even the mainline denominations have gotten into the spiritual identification business.

I’m being a little catty and arch here because it has started to feel a little like a child at Christmas sitting under the tree and trying to figure out what’s in the brightly wrapped packages. I no longer believe the gifts are determined or discovered in this way.

I believe God gives gifts as they are needed. Period.

We can either choose to use that gift in the moment or not. If we don’t use it, then it is not in operation. That does not mean the gift is lost to me or that God won’t give that gift again tomorrow.

If the Holy Spirit wants to heal, then that gift is given and the same for all the others. It’s possible that a person may have a sensitivity to one gift over another, but again, I think it depends on the time, the place, the need, the desire, etc.

So, if what I am saying is true, how would Timothy neglect his gift? I think it’s the gift of the mystery of the Christ. That is the ultimate gift and we neglect that gift when we don’t spend time to connect with the Holy Spirit, to pray, to commune, to contemplate, and then to respond to that time with actions, like love, touch, talking, listening, giving, or anything else the Spirit prompts.

I suppose there can be a gift of a mantle of sorts, like the passing from Elijah to Elisha [II Kings 2:13-14] but again, how that gift is used by the individual may be different even though the mantle is passed. Something to think about for another day, I think.

But for today, I merely ask the Lord to show me the way of nurture, that I, too, would not neglect that God has given to me. Alleluia.

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