You be you!

There I sat, in the audience at a Christian Women’s conference, inspired and awed by the words of our speaker that night.  She was so knowledgeable of God’s word, so eloquent in her speech, and so passionate in her delivery.  I wanted to be just like her.

I was so impressed by her, that I found myself drawn to her as a person almost more than I heard her message.  I imagined what it would be like to be as wise as she was, and as polished.  I perceived that she had “it all together” in her personal life, that surely her life was picture perfect due to her closeness to God and her obvious personality.  How could it not be?

Everything that I admired in her, were the very things that I felt that I lacked. 

Maybe you can relate.  Maybe the situation is different for you, but you have felt that same way.  You have admired someone because of the character qualities that they possess.  Courage, boldness, eloquence, spiritual maturity, knowledge? Perhaps these are the very ones that you sense are not present in your own life.

It is true that it’s good to have people in our lives that inspire us and cause us to examine our character.  This helps us to grow in spiritual maturity. Let’s not forget that God has designed each of us differently to fulfill His purpose for us!

Romans 12:4-8 NIV puts it this way “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

You will notice that Paul doesn’t state that we should all be good at all those things, but rather, that we should know what we are bent towards, and do that, to the best of our ability! 

Sunny San Diego!

Many years ago, I took a Spiritual Gifts Test.  The results showed me the areas of my life that I already had a passion or high level of interest in.  The areas that I was potentially gifted towards by God.  This was amazing to me!  I was able to shift my perspective from feelings of inadequacy and lacking, to the understanding that maybe the things that I already enjoyed were part of God’s purpose for my life!  For me, it was like the light turned on in a dark room!

To be clear, I am not saying that I was suddenly complete, or done growing spiritually.  Rather, it was kind of a newfound freedom, knowing that I could hone in on the specific passions and interests that were God honoring.  And that I could further develop THOSE, instead of only focusing on my short comings!

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT puts it another way “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.  God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

The cells in our body all work toward the same goal, regeneration and vitality.  But each organ, made up by those same cells, has a very different goal than all the other organs on the body.  But they all serve one purpose.  Our spiritual gifts may all be different, but they work together to serve one purpose in the body of Christ. That is to glorify God.

Here’s what I want you to consider; while we are flawed and imperfect, we each (as followers of Jesus, saved by His grace) have something to offer.  We each have been gifted by the Lord at the moment of salvation, with at least one spiritual gift.  What is yours?  What do you feel it could be, based on what drives or excites you?

Here is a list of potential gifts.  Give some thought to these.

Administration (details, organization)

Discernment (seeing truth or deception)

Evangelism (sharing your faith)

Exhortation (or encouragement)

Faith (confidence in God’s power, promises and presence)

Giving (financially)

Helps (the behind-the-scenes stuff)

Hospitality (serving others with joy, welcoming)

Knowledge (loving the study of the word)

Leadership (care and commitment to move people forward in their faith)

Mercy (empathy and compassion towards others)

Prophecy (or declaring God’s truths)

Serving (helping, ministering)

Teaching (effectively communicate the truths of the Bible to others)

Wisdom (similar to the gift of knowledge)

More than anything, what I want you to get from this post is this; You are valuable.  You have something to offer.  And instead of falling into the comparison trap, maybe spin that on its head and excel in what you are already passionate about or gifted toward!  Admiring qualities in others, like I admired the speaker, is excellent.  But have you considered what others might admire in you?

I always want to grow in my knowledge of God’s word. I desire to continually develop the areas of my life that need some correction. And I try to be aware of those around me and the example that they are to me.  But I don’t want to ignore my own God Given abilities!  Those areas where I can bring Him glory and honor as well as supporting those in my circle. 

Mission Beach, San Diego~

I am far from perfect; I have a long way to go to be complete, as He is complete.  But I do know that if I don’t acknowledge and appreciate the gifts and abilities that He has already given me to serve Him, I am missing out!  But that’s a blog for another day!

Progress over perfection.

Is this fresh news for you?  Maybe before this, you felt like you only needed to “fix yourself”?  Perhaps you didn’t understand why you get more excited about certain opportunities to serve, and not others.  Are your friends and contacts excited about opportunities that you are not?  This is most likely because, God has gifted you differently.  Celebrate that!  Develop that!  Embrace that God has created you lovingly and intentionally as you are. Your gifts are from Him!

And rest assured of this truth.

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

My pastor said this just this morning, I hope you’ll take it to heart.  “You need to be the you-est you there is!” 

Father God, you are an incredible God, I praise Your name.  I am amazed by You!  Thank You for making me unique.  I want to grow in my understanding of You and Your word, and to develop the part of me that makes me unique for Your kingdom.  I ask You to show me how to be fully myself and yet still bring you glory.  Thank You for choosing me and using me! 



Take me back to the beach please!

Growing Salt

I spent seven and a half years living in Phoenix Arizona.   And while it’s true what they say about it being a “dry heat”, it’s still HOT! 

Summertime is always the worst there.  One summer in particular, I recall the temperature reaching 120 degrees.  You haven’t ever truly been hot until you’ve been in Phoenix in the summer!

Whether it is 72 or 120 degrees outside, life goes on.  There are still places to go, errands to run, and kids to drive around.  You don’t get to simply stay inside in the air conditioning and wait it out.  So I learned some ways to deal with it, some tactics if you will. 

I learned that a good parking spot was not so much about closeness to the store, but where I could find shade.  I learned that seatbelts get really really hot, so I better take along a washcloth to put between the buckle and my children’s skin.  I learned that drinking water mattered more in the desert than it ever did in San Diego.  I learned that the best time to go grocery shopping was early in the morning or later at night so that I didn’t have to take my kids out in the heat.  And I learned that sometimes, you really do need a pot holder to drive your car. 

And for those times when there was just no avoiding the heat of the day and the ghastly high temperatures, I tried to be fast.  I wanted so badly to just get those errands done quickly and get back home.  Home was where it was cool and comfortable. 

I always just wanted to get out of the heat and get back to what felt good again. 

This is true for all of us when it comes to trials in life, isn’t it? 

As soon as something difficult comes into our lives, we just want it to be over.  I know I do!  I desperately want “normal” life back.  I want comfortable.  I want the hard thing to go away, and leave me in peace.  This is human nature.  That’s why when we touch a hot stove, we pull back quickly.  Our mind sends that “get away quick” signal to our hand, and we pull back.  Our brain does the same thing when we encounter trials and hardships in life.  It tells us to do whatever it takes to get out of that uncomfortable situation and get back to what feels good, and safe.  We all feel that way, and no one blames us for doing so.

But what does God’s word say?

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”

I also like the way The Message puts it.  “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Wow.  That’s a tough passage to really get behind isn’t it?  Don’t try to rush the trial, your true faith is being developed under pressure.  Consider it joy.  Let it do it’s work.

If you are currently experiencing a trial, I can practically hear you saying,  “Easier said than done!  I don’t want this trial, I didn’t ask for it, it is painful, and I don’t really see how this is helping me at all”

If you’ve been a Follower of Jesus for more than five minutes, you know that accepting Christ is not some kind of free pass on hardship.  It didn’t happen for the disciples that way, and Jesus warns us many times in scripture that we will endure difficulties.  In John 16:33, Jesus tells us,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sometimes, without even knowing it, we are asserting our American way of thinking, into the spiritual realm. 

In the great country of America, if you work hard, and do your best to improve, and become a better you in every way, life gets better.  The possibilities are endless.  Dream big, work hard, give it your all, and in time, you can have the life you want. You can have the ease and comfort you strive for.  But when it comes to our spiritual lives, this is not the case.  We cannot simply improve ourselves to the point of ease.  We cannot try harder and be “good enough” to never have hard times in our lives.  God doesn’t grade on a curve.  Trials are a part of every person’s life.  Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  This is God letting us know that you, and I, and all of humanity, for all time, will have troubles.   

But God wastes none of our pain.  And He doesn’t waste the precious gift of time.

“Let perseverance finish it’s work…”  Tough times change us, don’t they?  Every challenge I have faced has changed me a little bit.   Some have changed me more than a little bit.  But as I have encountered difficulties, I have never encountered them alone.  The Lord has been with me in the fire every time.  And as each one has passed; I have been able to look back and see growth in my life.  I think differently afterward.  I have a greater understanding of the purpose of God in my life.  I am more compassionate toward others. I learned that the “stove was hot” and that I better leave it alone!  And each time, I mature a little bit too. 

If God were to answer every prayer I prayed exactly the way I prayed it, not only would I make a giant mess of things, but I wouldn’t learn anything.  And since I can’t really hurry the trial along any faster, I may as well grow in it.  I think what God is saying to us in James 2:4 is “being miserable and wishing it was over won’t help, but seeing what I’m up to while it’s happening is where you’ll find peace.  And purpose.”

I am certain that if you took out some paper and listed all the trials or difficulties that you have had in your life, and what you learned or how you changed as a result of having gone through them, you  would see purpose.  You could make a road map of your spiritual growth.  And that growth is your testimony.  It’s what God is doing and has done to complete you and make you to be more like the image of His Son.  If we were to graph out our spiritual growth, we would see plainly that in the biggest times of trial, the most growth occurs.

I know that you know this is true.  I know you’ve heard it before.  I know it isn’t new.  But I bet you needed to hear it again.  I bet we all need the reminder that, in our hurt, God is at work.  We need to remember that tough times are a normal part of everyone’s life.  That God isn’t “mad at us” and He didn’t forget about us.  But that there is purpose in the pain.  And that He is working something good through it.

Mark 9:49 says that “Everyone is salted with fire.” Or some versions say, “seasoned with fire”.  Salt, or seasoning, improves flavor.  It also serves to tenderize meat.  It can also enhance the color of food and provide nutrients needed to sustain balance in our bodies.  If we apply the same idea of trials “salting” us, then we begin to get the picture of why they grow us and how that is good for our souls.  Since we know that we can’t escape trials, we need to learn to let them season us, enhance our lives, and tenderize our hearts.  And most importantly, to provide the needed nutrients to cause growth in us. 

Nothing is wasted with God. 

When trials come (and they will) you always have a choice in how you will respond.  Will you allow them to make you BITTER or BETTER?

The first step of faith and trust is up to us.  How will you respond?

Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay