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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

house in groundI find the acquisition and/or practice of wisdom a great mystery. We are told throughout the Proverbs and elsewhere in scripture that we can ask for wisdom and it will be granted. In this way, it is a gift. And yet, clearly, wisdom is also wrapped up in experience and the ability to translate understanding into application.

Wisdom built her house; . . .
 “Come, eat my food,
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
Abandon your simplistic ways and live;

    walk in the way of understanding.” [Proverbs 9:1, 5-6, CEB]

gardenI have asked for wisdom but I confess, I don’t have the patience to wade through its giving. I am unwilling to accept that the process of gaining wisdom may be more similar to building a house or cultivating a garden. Both take time. And energy. And persistence. Both take the gifts of God (materials and weather) as well as the participation and knowledge of the builder.

Wisdom may be a gift but it is useless until it is unwrapped and used. And only in its use, does wisdom flourish.

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cup of waterThis is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. [Matthew 10:41-42, The Message]

Am I the only one who has a little put-down voice inside? Of course, back in the day (BC), that voice had a heyday on others, but the tables have turned and I’m getting my due: the voice is putting me down relentlessly. No matter what I do or say, the voice is busy. Either I am too late, too early, too fat, too loud, too predictable, too repetitive, too sharp, too flat, too comical, too serious and on and on and on. Oh, she’s a busy little voice.

And when it comes to giving (whether it’s my time, money, or energy), it’s never enough (or lately, too much). When Mike and I switched back to tithing in late Fall, the voice choked for a bit, but then she started nitpicking at me (particularly after Mike died): what about that reimbursement check for mileage, did you tithe on that? And what about that dinner your brother bought you, did you tithe on that? What about Mike’s retirement checks or his sick leave or his annual leave? Pick, pick, pick.

Every time I volunteer for a task or good cause, the voice complains about the time I’m wasting, what kind of volunteer watches “Law and Order” instead of serving? Or, look at so and so, now that’s a committed person. If someone needs a meal, the voice mocks me, “I hope you’re not making that stupid casserole again.” If I am out several nights of the week, volunteering or working, the voice asks me about my priorities. Sigh.

It’s a lose-lose with that voice.

other voiceIt’s time to shut her down. I’m not 100% sure how to do that and I welcome your suggestions. But my heart knows two things:

  1. I’m not alone with this problem.
  2. God appreciates every gift given from the heart, both great and small.

I need to focus on the other Presence, right? I declare right now, I’m giving the Holy Spirit full authority over that other voice. Put a dome over her!

Take my mustard seed, Lord, and make it a tree. Take my small gift and use it for good.

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Advent : Day Two

Image by RHADS

Art by RHADS

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. [I Corinthians 1:4-7, NIV]

I imagine what it would be like to have someone send me this message. There is so much promise in these worlds: the promise of someone praying on my behalf, the promise of God’s presence, the promise of God’s grace, the promise of God’s gifts, and the promise of a personal revelation of Jesus Christ. I am comforted and encouraged.

So often, I see myself sucked into a habit of self-condemnation and perfectionism. I feel inadequate and unable to accomplish anything. I am overwhelmed by the daily demands of my life, much less trying to add outreach and ministry to others. And in the midst of this comes the holidays and all those questions about trees and decorations and shopping. Even the church itself has its pressures to serve and plan. Julian of Norwich

If I could just hold on to this prayer for me. For you.

For this reason, I believe Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”  It’s the grace. Everything will work out. As a friend of mine has always said: worry don’t work.

And so, for this day, I will take a breath and do what I can. I have everything I need to accomplish what is needed today. And God has tomorrow.

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A popular teaching among Christians emphasizes a person’s weaknesses and God’s ability to work with them to create strength [2nd Corinthians 12:9] and I don’t necessarily disagree. But perhaps we have lost sight of the importance of gifted strengths.

I Peter 4:10
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
[NIV 1984] or As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor]. [Amplified]

I have given a number of workshops on problem solving and the core usually revolves around some type of brainstorming, a wild explosion of crazy ideas tossed onto the table without concern for viability or ridiculousness. It’s a tool for tackling that worn-out saying, “think outside the box.” It’s a tool for generating creativity.

But many people will shy away from this term, creativity, saying they don’t have it. I disagree. I believe everyone is creative to one degree or another. Most people put some energy into selecting clothes in the morning, making a meal, purchasing an item, planning a party or other event, etc. These decisions are made out of that creative place within. It’s directing oneself toward an end. It’s seeing beforehand, it’s dreaming and imagining.

Divine gifts: some people nurture their creativity and as a result, it is more accessible to them. But everyone has it, because God is creative. And we are extensions of God’s mind. And it’s a definite strength, foundational to human, unique and elastic.

But we must also remember that gifts are a personal responsibility. Like the parable of the talents [Mathew 25:14-30], we have to administer the gifts entrusted to us: we have to use them, not exercise false modesty saying, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Baloney.

I understand there are concerns about working our talents and, as a result, getting prideful or self-absorbed. But it’s not the gift that’s the problem, it’s the motive.

It’s the same misunderstanding many people have about money, thinking that money is evil, when it’s the “love of money” that strangles the soul [I Timothy 6:10].

Perhaps we should all try this: create a resume for serving God and others.

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What is a useful crop? I’m sure there would be lots of answers to this question depending on one’s point of view. Is my life producing anything useful? Beautiful? Memorable? Helpful? What is ultimately driving me? I am so very busy all the time. Maybe it’s time to rotate the crop?

Hebrews 6:7
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

When I was a younger Christian (back in the day is the latest phrase — of course, the kids who use it crack me up, it’s hard for me to consider their tween lives as “back in the day”), I was taught a similar sounding verse from John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” and that fruit meant converts. My fruit was supposed to be notches on my belt, the number of people “brought to Christ.”

But really, is it just about that? Or is fruit like the crops and what is truly important is that they be “useful.” Whatever I produce should have some purpose. Naturally, sharing my faith with others and the story of my transformation as a result of that commitment to the Christ is useful. But, there are other things: providing food and shelter for those who don’t have it or giving a family to an orphan, or guiding someone to resources they need to take the next step. These are all good.

What about beauty? Is art useful? Is music? Is drama or writing?

Too many people lose sight of the power of the arts and nature to feed the soul and to transcend circumstances.

Yesterday, I read in the New York Times Magazine about a young African American who grew up in the projects where deep poverty and casual violence was the mainstay of his life. And somewhere along the way, Ryan Speedo Green found the joy of music and now, he won an “idol” type contest by the Metropolitan Opera. Someone gave him this opportunity and it was more than “useful,” it was life-changing.

We never know who we will touch with our fruit but as long as it is nurtured with love and is an authentic expression of ourselves, there will be someone to eat.

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The Hogwarts Sorting Hat was used to determine which “house” a new student would have allegiance to during his/her years in school. I have seen Christians do much the same thing by taking tests and classes and workshops to “determine” their “gifts.” Not Hogwarts but hogwash!

I Corinthians 12:29-31a
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I can call this search process hogwash because I’ve done it. I’ve done it more times than I’d like to confess. And like the MBTI, the results come out pretty much the same every time. Why do I keep putting on this sorting hat? Obviously, I’m hoping there is a paper test that will anoint me as an apostle or faith healer (those have drama) instead of an administrator! For heaven’s sake, all that energy on the giftings and I’ve been missing the whole point: “. . . earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces . . .” [vs 31a, Amplified].

Roles in a church or in any organization appear as the need arises. The question is not how each person is anointed for all time, but are we willing to step up when we are needed? Are some people better at some things than others? Of course. But, I don’t believe we are limited to that one role, ever! The problem I’ve seen is that we limit ourselves to what we “think” that role will look like. God is creative.

Right now, too many in the church are operating purely out of tradition and habit. Church is a building. Church has a “pastor” who speaks from 15-40 minutes from the front of the church. There are songs that are sung – the number or time is set. It goes on and on.

What is the best gift and what are the greater graces that we are called to cultivate? Is the church of today partnering with us in this journey. Or, are we all sitting under the sorting hat first? Are we sorted into roles and denominations? Are we sorted into leaders and followers? Are we sorted into pre-millennial and post-millennial? Are we sorted by country and color? Are we sorted by political party? And worse still. . . are we acting like the sorting hat itself? Are we sorting others?

I’m taking off my sorting hat today. I will not sort people around me. Nor will I be sorted.

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There is a bottom line truth here: if a person sacrifices his/her time, dedication, and/or expertise for the sake of others, he/she deserves to be compensated or, at the very least, receive some benefit for that service. They shouldn’t have to ask.

I Corinthians 9:10b
. . . the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to thresh in expectation of partaking of the harvest.
[Amplified]

In the 9th chapter of Corinthians, Paul is really letting them have it for not supporting materially, the very people who brought light into their dark place. I’m not even sure he’s talking just about himself, although he does sound pretty feisty in these passages. I think he’s addressing a situation that, quite honestly, hasn’t changed much over the centuries. He’s writing about all of those who are sacrificing for the sake of others.

The modern trap is to assume every compensation is financial. I’m not saying that isn’t important. Obviously, in our society, money is essential to accomplishing almost anything. Money pays the bills. Money opens doors. But there are other compensations that have to do with sharing the harvest, the fruit of the venture. Poor people and third world cultures seem to get this while westerners are blinded.

Whatever the task at hand, those who serve and participate in the process should receive a portion of the fruit. It helps connect people, to create unity, and buy-in.

As Jesus and his disciples walked their world, healing and teaching, people opened their homes and shared what they had. It was enough.

If someone works at your restaurant, let them eat. If someone works at your bookstore, let them read or get books cheap. If someone works in your office, let them make copies. If someone takes care of your yard, let them have flowers, seed, or seedlings. If someone cares for your children, let them participate in celebrations. As soon as we work in community, we become part of that community. Each person deserves full respect for the part he/she plays or contributes to the greater effort.

Freely give it so it’s not taken on the sly.

Usually, most people use these passages to rally the believers into sending more and more funds to support missionaries. And I understand that is important. But I tell you, I believe the full participation in that ministry is even more important. The fruit of participation is greater with the gift of time and energy, prayer and communication, advocacy and visits.

It’s a different kind of bartering that we need to re-energize.

God is giving to me all the time. And what do I have that God might want in return? Access to my heart. Participation in my life.

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