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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual gifts’

My husband and I can often be found with our noses in a book. Our taste in reading matter is quite different—and it is even more different when it comes to brain teasers, puzzles and the like. While I revel in The Times Big Book of Quick Crosswords, with their almost cryptic challenges and many references to history and literature, my husband loves The Times Super Fiendish Sudoku! Neither of us is in any way tempted to tackle each other’s puzzles—and I would be a dead loss at sudoku anyway!

Twice recently and in very public settings, the different tastes we all have has been brought home to me in no uncertain terms. The first occurred while giving a talk on my writing journey and the books I read during my early years. As soon as I mentioned the Australian novel We of the Never Never by Mrs Aeneas Gunn, a lady right at the front called out loudly with great vehemence.

‘Oh, I hated that book—I absolutely despised it! It was terrible—terrible!’

For a moment, I was floored. How could I pick up momentum after that? In the end, I pointed out how well her comment demonstrated that we all have different tastes and that writers have to let go of the idea that their own wonderful book will please everyone. Even before I had begun speaking that day, I sensed this lady was somewhat antagonistic towards me. Yet now there she was, nodding enthusiastically. Phew!

IMG_20190504_102706212The second occurred during a recent tour of the beautiful, old St Saviour’s Cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, considered one of colonial architect Edmund Blacket’s greatest achievements and a fine example of the decorated Gothic style. Our group listened attentively as our guide pointed out various interesting aspects about the cathedral, such as its huge, marble font, its massive pipe organ, the wonderful stained-glass windows featuring the twelve apostles, and the bishop’s chair, the tallest in the southern hemisphere, intricately carved from oak. I myself was in awe of the skills of all those craftsmen who had laboured over each beautiful piece and whose work had stood the test of time. But then I noticed some of our group frowning and whispering together.

‘It’s all lovely, but imagine what it cost to build! And imagine how much all the upkeep costs now. It’s such a waste really,’ I heard one of them say, as she shook her head.

I could see her point—after all, there is so much need everywhere in the world around us. Yet I could also appreciate how those craftsmen must have wanted to create this beautiful building and all it contains to honour God and enable others to worship.

What would your response have been?

Yes, we are all different, with different tastes, different abilities, different priorities in life and often different ways of worshipping God too. May we learn to celebrate these, as we serve God in our own unique way and faithfully do the things God has called us to do!

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

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IMG_20180410_101220307One morning recently, I drove across town to speak at a women’s event. When I arrived, I saw at once how much work the organisers had done. Everything looked perfect—all the tables were beautifully decorated and there was a mound of food ready for the women to enjoy. Later, I was told one lady had made all those scrumptious delicacies herself—her labour of love and gift to others.

Then I noticed one table that looked a little out of place. It was piled high in a kind of haphazard way with balls of wool, ribbons, pieces of lace and containers of buttons of all shapes and sizes, plus a few other decorative odds and ends. Had the ladies organising everything forgotten about it?

After the meeting began, someone explained to everyone why that unusual table was there. This group has undertaken the project of knitting ‘mitts’—thick  hand warmers, sometimes called ‘twiddle mitts’ or ‘fidget muffs’ made of different textured yarns, with all sorts of beads, buttons, ribbons, lace and other interesting objects sewn onto them which dementia sufferers can ‘twiddle’. These mitts often help sufferers stay calm and overcome restlessness, which are common symptoms of dementia. They may also prevent some from pulling their clothes or scratching their skin and can help trigger memories too.

What a lovely idea, I thought—such a good way for ‘crafty’ people to use their gifts to benefit others! And such a good way to use up those odds and ends of wool, ribbons, lace and other bits and pieces too.

Then it was my turn to speak. At one stage, I showed a photo of my lovely ‘soul friend’ Joy and mentioned the fact that she now sadly suffers from dementia. The point I was making was just one among quite a few—but someone was listening carefully with a caring heart and came up to me later.

‘Please choose one of our knitted mitts for your “soul friend”,’ she said quietly. ‘We wouldIMG_20180422_173401196 love you to take one to her.’

I was touched by this lady’s thoughtfulness—not to mention the hours of knitting and sewing on of buttons, beads, ribbons and laces someone had spent making the lovely mitt I chose. What a wonderful treasure to be able to give my friend!

As I drove home, the following verses came to mind:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11

While I used what I believe is my God-given gift of speaking, others had served via baking, decorating the tables beautifully, making cards and gifts for each person attending and of course knitting those calming mitts. In short, we had each in our own way enjoyed the amazing privilege of being ‘faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’, of enabling that grace to flow through us to others.

How wonderful to be involved in such labours of love and hopefully to bring God praise in the process!

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Jo 12I missed my friend’s phone call about how her job interview had gone, so my husband passed on her message.

‘On the morning of the interview, she woke up laughing’ he said. ‘She’ll tell you the rest on Sunday.’

I smiled to myself. It sounded good news to me, as I remembered what had transpired after she had asked two of us to pray for her at church the previous Sunday. She had told us how she was feeling about the interview and how it had been a challenging task to compile her resumé, after not having done so for years. So together we bowed our heads and began praying.

Straight away, the other lady present asked God for deep peace for our friend, for the ability to sense God’s presence with her at the interview and for a clear mind to answer any questions put to her. But as I stood there agreeing with her prayer, I found myself feeling more and more joyful. In fact, I almost burst out laughing! What was I to do?

In the end, I prayed for our friend to have a good night’s sleep and wake up on the morning of the interview feeling joyful and refreshed. Then I shared with her how I sensed so much joy surrounding this interview that I had almost laughed aloud! I also told her that I felt she would find herself saying something at one point that she had not expected to say at all—and that, when she did, those interviewing her would heave a sigh of relief, laugh together and say, ‘That’s exactly what we wanted to hear!’ Yet, even as I shared these things, I wondered if they were from God at all or if I had simply imagined them.

How reassuring it was then to see her beaming face last Sunday, as she came to tell me what had happened! Yes, she said, she had indeed woken up laughing on the day of the interview. In fact, she had had a dream during the night that she arrived for the interview in old clothes and with just thongs on her feet. In the dream, she had apologised, but the interviewers had laughed and assured her it didn’t matter!

In the actual interview, however, when asked what she would do if she encountered something she had not dealt with before, my friend, without thinking, simply raised her left arm high, waved it around and let out an anguished ‘Help!’

At that point—you guessed it—the interviewing panel laughed and said, ‘That’s the best answer we could ever have hoped to hear!’

But wait, there’s more! For a long time, my friend has had problems with her left arm—yet this was the arm she had used, with no trouble at all, to raise and wave around enthusiastically!

Yes, Jesus, our Saviour, our Immanuel, has come into this world. Our God is with us, in the midst of our joy—and in the midst of our pain. Our God is with us, whatever our situation. Our God is with us, to the end of all time.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:25

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There we were, the whole family seated at the restaurant, waiting for our meals to arrive. The moment had come for me to open my birthday gifts. The first was a small, slim parcel in purple tissue paper and ribbon—my favourite colour. Inside, I discovered a beautiful, handcrafted pair of earrings, chosen for me by one of our daughters—a special gift I now wear with pride. The second was from our son and his family—an intriguing looking box with a brightly striped ribbon keeping the lid in place.

As soon as I lifted that lid, my senses were assailed by a wonderful mix of interesting perfumes. I peeked inside—and there lay an array of beautiful soaps, bath salts and other similar items, of all different shapes, sizes and bright, contrasting colours. It was a delight to pick them up one by one and enjoy those different aromas—mango, orange, peppermint, vanilla, rose, lime, lavender. I loved them all—each one was so intriguing and unique. Again, I had been given a gift I truly love.

‘I chose all them,’ our big, burly Maths teacher son told me then. ‘I spent ages in the shop—the ladies there were laughing at me because I took so long to decide! And did you notice the purple and black tissue paper in the bottom of the box? I had to find just the right colours to go with it all. The box had to be the exact right size as well–and I wanted the ribbon to match all the different colours of the soap too. It looks good, don’t you think?’

I assured him I loved it all. Yes, I laughed, along with everyone else, at the way he was so proud of his gift and the story of how long he had taken to choose it all. But I was touched as well at his labour of love on my behalf.

I open that box again now and admire all those special little gifts it contains. I wonder then if I will have the heart to use them. At the moment, my carefully chosen gift is just that little bit too precious—precious in that it speaks not only of a human love that will go to such trouble to select a special gift for me but also of God’s extravagant love for each one of us. It reminds me how God created us with such care and intricacy—each unique, with our own special shape, size, aroma and flavour to offer this world as only we can.

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

And God has given each of us gifts with which to bless others, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12, and to enable them to function as God intended them to. As God’s children, created in God’s own image with God’s own Spirit living within us, we have all we need to make a difference in this world and to take that light and love of the Lord everywhere we go—surely a labour of love we can all approach with thankfulness and joy.

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Yesterday, while filing away some talks I gave this past weekend, I decided it was high time I threw out copies of others I gave around fifteen years ago! Why keep these bulging folders any longer? I have changed so much since then. And even if I were to speak on those same topics, my content would be quite different.

As I sorted through these, I noted how much preparation had gone into them—and no doubt much prayer as well. Then I stopped for a moment and reflected on all that has happened since then. Over these past fifteen years, I have spoken in and outside of churches many times, as I still do. In a flash, I saw how invaluable that earlier experience and hours of preparation had been for what I find myself still doing today. But beyond that, I sensed again God’s overwhelming grace in my life. In all those years, God has never forgotten me for a moment. And, just as I experienced this past weekend, as I gave three sessions at a women’s retreat, God is continuing to provide me with opportunities to use the gifts of speaking and encouraging I believe I have been given and continuing to guide and strengthen me.

In Isaiah 49:15, the Lord says to the people of Zion:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …

Centuries later, I believe God is still not in the business of neglecting us. When we belong to God’s family, God takes responsibility for us—and I saw that clearly yet again this past weekend. Even before I left home, after glancing through my input once more, I decided to sit down quietly and read a few words of Scripture. Recently, I had begun reading through Psalms again and ‘happened’ to be up to Psalm 19. In the last verse there, I found the following:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

This was exactly the prayer I sensed I needed to pray before heading up the coast to speak. I did not know the group well who had invited me and was a little nervous about how I would be received. But, above all, I wanted to please the Lord with what I had prepared. So being given this little prayer brought such reassurance as I set out into the unknown.

And once again, God did not let me down. In fact, I am sure at times God rescued me and gave me words I would not have thought of saying, just as is promised in Isaiah 51:16:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

This week, as you seek to love and serve the Lord, may you too receive a fresh glimpse of God’s amazing grace and enjoy that covering of God’s own, powerful hand over you in all you do.

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