Desires, Gifting, and Calling

"Somehow," notes Os Guinness, "we human beings are never happier than when we are expressing the deepest gifts that are truly us. . . God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing," says Guinness, "and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there." (quoted in Desire , John Eldredge, p. 152-54)

I read this today in the devotional I receive by email each day from John Eldredge's ministry, Ransomed Heart.  Much of what I've been learning about desire these past few months, has been strongly influenced by his writing.  In fact, reading this book, Desire, and another (The DreamGiver by Bruce Wilkinson) triggered my exploration of this topic.

Often, our truest desire shows itself in some way when we are very young, too young, perhaps, to interpret it correctly.  I've contemplated this much the last week or so, as I recalled my desire as a teenager.  More than anything, I wanted to enter a covent where the nuns had a mission to the disabled in Bogota, Columbia.  It was for this reason that I studied Spanish back in high school.  For a variety of reasons I never finished my candidacy, and, in a secret place in my heart, have always wondered if I somehow "failed" God by not becoming a nun. 

I do know, in retrospect, that I believe if I had stayed in the convent, I would have been richly blessed.  However, as a married woman, God has also richly blessed me, especially with my four children and two grandchildren.  I've been blessed by my years of teaching in the public sector, and even more richly blessed that I've been allowed to serve His people for the last (almost) 9 years at Westside. Through this journey, I've learned to view God's will as much more of an invitation  than a rigid command to do something.  He offers us blessing in where He calls us to be, and, should we not respond, we do miss the blessing.  But I believe God's will is somewhat like a dance--when we make a mis-step to His lead, He compensates and brings us back. And once again offers us the blessing, perhaps, though, in a different "package."

All this to say, I believe my basic gifting, the gifting of all of us as Christians, is to love Jesus uniquely as He created us.  I believe, though, He uses our natural giftings, to move us strategically into the place we will feel most fulfilled in the use of our gifts.  Though this may sound secular and selfish, isn't He the one who gave us those gifts in the first place?  How can we not be giving Him glory when we are expressing the person He created us to be?

So, did I "misinterpret" God's call all those years ago?  Or was He planting the seed of the desire to serve the disabled in Latin America, which only now He is bringing to fruition?  I don't begin to have the answer.  But I do know that He is faithful, and will, eventually, get us to the place of using our gifts for His glory, if only we allow Him.  Embrace the gift that is you.  Consider how He is calling you to use your gifts, right here, right now.  And to God be the glory!

All My Needs, You Have Supplied. . .

One of the scariest parts of this journey to Guatemala is trusting that it IS God calling me there, and that HE will provide, even when I don't see it.  Have decided I need to start writing down all the ways He is providing, so I remember them. 

One of the hardest things about leaving is not being here to "influence" the lives of my grandsons.  I know how much Grandma poured into me.  I know how little my mom poured into my kids.  I desire to somehow take what I've learned from Grandma about pouring in, and what I've learned from my mom about the challenges of being a "long distance" grandma, and strike a good balance in grandparenting the boys.  However, I know it will not be the same as being here on a day to day basis, doing the everyday things of life with them.  My good friends, Arnie and Alice, whose own grandchildren live in another state, have offered to "step in" whenever Zach and/or Nate need grandparents.  What a peace this gift brings my heart. .  .

With all the medical problems I've had in the last year, there have been lots of bills that still need to be taken care of.  Every time I prayed about this, God would tell me not to worry about it, He had it covered.  I couldn't imagine how He'd pull this one off, and would get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I thought about it.  How was I going to take care of this?  This week I found out I wasn't, as He already had.  The church has given us a supplemental insurance to help us cover our out-of-pocket medical expenses, and it is retroactive to January 1st, which is when I incurred most of this debt.  He already had this planned, He just hadn't revealed it to me yet.  Thank you, Byron and the Personnel Team for being used by God to bless me in this way. . .

When I had my last stress test, and felt like maybe I'd heard God wrong, that maybe I'd messed this all up, God prompted my dear Tara to call me, even while the test was going on, to let me know He's put me on her heart.  He'd not forgotten or abandoned. . .

Craig, our church communications director, has offered to mentor Joel in our media ministry, making sure he still has a strong connection with the church.  This was not something I'd really been concerned about, but again, gives me a peace and joy beyond measure.  Joel can take care of himself, but, he shouldn't have to go it alone, and he won't.  Along with Craig, Bryant and Mike have stepped alongside Joel to be the spiritual fathers he (we all) needs.  And my heart swells at seeing the church, MY church, really being the church. . .

Not to mention the support, both prayer and financial, that has been given me.  I feel truly loved and cared for in a way I never have before.  I hadn't expected this blessing to come from raising support.  I trusted people would believe in what I was doing, but I'm learning that the believe in ME.  I'm beginning to understand the hundred-fold blessing Jesus promised us. . .

Then there's the article in the bulletin this week about me leaving the church.  Greg, who I've worked with only a year, wrote a wonderful summary of what God has allowed me to do here at Westside.  It was neat to reflect back on the last 9 years through the eyes of someone who wasn't here for most of them.  But, not being one to ever do anything sentimental, Greg wrote a "private tribute (?)" parodying my time here, which he presented to me in all seriousness.  I laughed so hard.  He helped me to realize I'm a friend, as well as an employee. . .

A bit later, Curt, a photographer friend who loves irises as much as I do, called me from Two Rivers, just to let me know how beautiful the irises are out there right now.  He even texted me a picture of them.  Again, a small thing, but one that showed he knows me personally, and cared enough to want me to enjoy what I love.  Oh, what a reflection of God this is to me. . .

So today, I think about all the times I've trusted God to meet my needs.  And I have.  Usually what I asked for, and what I recognized receiving, were those things I need in daily life.  A home, food, car, clothes.  And He has met them in truly amazing ways over the years.  But, it seems, I tried to take meeting my emotional and relational needs into my own hands, and, frankly, have messed things us pretty well from most of the time.

This week, as I reflect on His meeting my needs, I finally get that my "heart needs" are as important to Him as my "body needs." (Yeah, I know, most of you are saying, "DUH!")  I have to admit that it's been hard looking at moving "alone."  I fear loneliness more than anything.  But, this week especially, I've clearly seen that, though I might be separated from you all who I love by physical distance, you will be with me.  This is your ministry as much as it is mine, for you give me the courage and encouragement to move forward.  Thank you. . .

I Could Never Do THAT!

Years ago I was in a Bible study, listening to Kaye Arthur on tape, relating how God had told her to sell everything, and go to seminary. I remember very clearly thinking at the time, I could NEVER do that!

This came to me when I was praying this morning. How often I’ve said “I could never. . .” Those were usually things I’d romanticized, thought God only called people “holier” than I to do. Not ordinary people like me.

And I realize I was right. I couldn’t do those things then. God hadn’t asked me to, so He’d not equipped me to. It's not about being particularly holy, it's got a lot more to do with being open and receiving. And I realize now, as many folks talk to me about how they couldn’t do what I’m doing, that I’m not doing anything remarkable. I’m only doing the next thing God is asking me to do, and it really seems very clear and simple. And any of you could do the same thing, IF God asked you to. The question is, what is God asking of each of us, right here, right now.

More and more I realize that, while my desire is to be in Guatemala, God’s not done with what He has for me here yet. Each morning I need to make a conscious choice to “Be present” where I am, here in Omaha, at Westside Church, walking with His people here and now. (Yes, Greg, I did read the book!)

So when I think, “I can’t wait to get to Guatemala,” I have to remind myself, that, yes, I can. I’m still here. This is not a holding pattern until I get to do ministry. This is my ministry. And each day He blesses me by the people who come to me, looking to find Him. And I get to help them find God in their day to day lives, right here, right now.

I’m just beginning to learn to live fully present in the current moment. When I don’t, I’m ignoring what God is offering me today, wishing for what He has for me in the future. If I don’t learn to live in the present right now, when I get to the future I won’t know how to appreciate what He has for me then (since I’ll still be wishing for what is yet to come). Don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but I think it’s what I needed to remind myself of today.

When Jesus said, “I have come that you might have LIFE and have it to the FULL” I don’t think He was talking about the future. I think He offers us a full life each day. The question is, are we willing to accept what He is offering us?

Lord, Jesus. Forgive me for trying to live in the future, and missing out on what you offer me in the present. Your Word says that You make me lie in green pastures, beside still waters (present tense). You tell me you are with me all days, not just the days that seem especially exciting, challenging or holy. Help me to find You in the “sacrament of the present moment” so I’ll be ready for what you invite me to in the future.