"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I don't like your gift

How would you feel if someone opened your gift and made a face, made fun of it, ignored it or rejected it? 

You spent hours working on this gift.

You created it from your heart specifically for the person that was to receive it.

You customized it to fit them perfectly and to show them to their best advantage. After all that the gift is rejected for one reason or another. They politely said either directly or indirectly: "It's not really me. No thank you."

And in your heart, you felt you were rejected too.

Lest we climb up on our wounded-heart soapbox and look down upon those who would do such a thing, let's look at some of the gifts we have received with, shall we say less-than gracious thanksgiving...

How does God feel when we do the same with the spiritual gifts he has - with great consideration, given us?

Recently, I agreed to do my first dramatic presentation. I was to perform in front of my church on a day when there would be many visitors. While initially I was excited to explore this opportunity, the closer the day came, the more I started refusing the gift that God has given me.

"I can't do this. I am too scared. I am going to forget all my lines and mess it all up. I am going to look silly. I think I over-act."

My list was as long as my arm as to why I couldn't do it. Finally the night came. I was terrified. One of the kids in our church was also giving her first dramatic presentation and right before she was to go on, she was overcome with her fear. While I was encouraging her that she was going to do great, had nailed it in practice and that God was right there with her, I was led to say "It is when we are terrified, and do it anyway, that God is most pleased with us. He blesses that." As soon as I said it, I realized God wanted me to hear that too.

I was rejecting his gift. I was telling Him it didn't fit me and that I didn't want it.

when I realized what I had been telling God I was embarrassed. I was rejecting a gift he had already given me because I was too scared to use it.

Then I simply told God I wanted to do it, but couldn't without Him. I needed His words. I accepted the gift of speaking and dramatic presentation and went for it.

As I was on that stage, I have never felt the presence of Jesus as strongly or as real as I did that night. I felt if I looked up, I would look right at him, he was that real to me. Afterward, several people came up to me to tell me how touched they were by what I had said. Only working in the power of God's gifting, in the place he has called us to be, will bring that closeness to him and the ability to minister to others hearts.

All callings are based on a gift that God has given. A gift specifically designed and created for use to not only glorify Himself, but to bring the bearer of the gift closer to God's heart.

"6Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; 7[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; 8He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness."
Romans 12:6-8, Amplified

We can't all be the worship leader, or the creative artist, or the eloquent speaker. Not everyone is equipped to be a bold and ready street evangelist. Not everyone can give a dramatic presentation that touches hearts.

But we also can't all be the one who can organize a funeral dinner in under 24 hours. Or the person that sees that one flower or shrub that would bring balance and warmth to the entrance of the sanctuary. We can't all be the one that sees the details and leaves a shine on the floor, full paper towel dispensers and spotless glass in all the entrance doors. There has to be someone to design and print the bulletins and someone to run the sound and media. There has to be someone to be silly and crazy and share the love of Jesus with a bunch of kids.

When we search out a job or task that is outside of our calling  not only are we taking the place of someone who is called to that task but we are telling God "No thanks. You picked the wrong gift for me."

Don't you think he might feel a little rejected?

I have done my fair share of explaining why I can't, or won't, or shouldn't. I have spent too much time in areas that were not mine to serve in and running from the ones that I am called to.

No one else can do what we are gifted to do. When we aren't using our gifts, something is missing. Not acting in our gifts leaves a hole in your church's ministry to others. No matter what your gifting is. What would the Body of Christ look like if we embraced our gifts and used them? How many people would we reach? How much closer to God would we be?

Be encouraged. Even if you feel you have lost the opportunity to use a gift in the past, God will bring more ways to use it if you ask Him. Be open, be willing to say "yes" when you are invited outside your comfort zone and "no" when you are offered something where you are not called.  

Amazingly, the places we are most meant to be are usually the places that stretch us the most, bring the most fear, and take the most from us. And after we have given all the emotion, energy, thought and faith we can, we see that God did something totally amazing through us and it brought glory to His name.

And remember what your mom taught you: "No matter what, don't forget to say thank you for whatever you get."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Grabbing Grace

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."
John 1:16

All my time is spent working. When I look around all I see is things that aren't getting done, things that need completed, repaired, corrected, updated, organized, studied, prepared, scheduled...it
never ends.

All this doing and going and working is overwhelming. Why can't I ever feel like I have accomplished what I have set out to do?

Because I am the one setting out to do it.

"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:16

Very rarely do I wake up in the morning relaxed in the knowledge that I am fully equipped to meet everything coming my way today (2 Timothy 3:17). God is fully aware and fully in control of each and every moment of my life. As Psalm 139 promises, God has ordained every one of my days. But I wake up focused on my to-do list and live in the stress of never marking off everything I "needed" to get done.

Our verse today brings everything down to one simple way to break this exhausting cycle.

Grace.

By grabbing ahold of grace with both hands and refusing to be shaken off by the unexpected and undone.

By learning to understand that there will always be something else that needs my attention, I can grab grace and focus in on what God would have me do. And be OK with letting go of the rest.

We are promised that in the fullness of grace we will receive one blessing after another. What is the blessing you could most use today? Peace? Time to catch your breath? Giving yourself permission to put down the to-do list and just be in the moment? The ability to be OK with what didn't get done? A refreshing of your spirit through a quality time with God alone?

There are some women noted in Scripture that I am quite sure learned how to grab ahold of grace and not let go.

"Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord."
Romans 16:12
 
Notice the three most important words that describe these women's work.
 
In the Lord.
 
We don't know what these women did specifically. That wasn't the point. We were only to learn from them that they worked hard in the Lord. They had it figured out. The Lord is the point. When we know what the point is, we don't stress over the work.
 
Yes, it is in the Lord we find strength, the ability to prioritize, and the excitement for the purpose. It is by grabbing grace that we find our sense of accomplishement. We can go to sleep with peace in what we did, and wake with anticipation of a day spent serving the Lord and being blessed for it.