Gifted and Talented

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You hear it a lot. Shine your light. Why? So men may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. This is what we hear in church and it’s what we read in the gospels (Matthew 5:13 – 16).

Because for true, we are to be salt. And light.

I dare say, though, it’s pretty easy to get off track. All to often, we may get caught up in busyness and extra curricular works. Even good works. Maybe especially good works. Because Scripture talks about that, too.

As the book of James warns, faith without works is dead, right? So we better darn well get busy doing a work. Any work will do. And the more visible the better. Because we have to shine the light of Jesus in a dark world. How? In the form of good deeds. Something that can be measured and valued and seen by all…

At least that’s where I went off the rails just over a year ago. My heart deceived me and I was led astray by busyness. I thought I wasn’t doing enough. That I had to be more showy in working for the Lord. So I did the wrong thing. I let go of the very thing God created me to do by taking hold of what I thought I should do.

It was a yoke I grabbed hold of. And I slipped it right over my neck and kept it there. It nearly strangled me. Yes, the yoke of empty works nearly snuffed the light right out of me…

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights. James 1:14-17

Sometimes God speaks in unexpected ways and through random sources. Yesterday, His message came through someone I just met. This guy came to our home to see my husband and on his way out, wisdom fell from his lips. He said, “Leave the door open. Let the sun shine in.” And it was just like the light switched on in my soul.

I had to ask my husband if he said what I thought he did. And so I told Jason… the darkness had come back. I’d been as black as night and his words seemed big. My husband’s response?

“Shine on.”

And so God reveals truth to me through a chance encounter with someone my husband had to see. Confirmed by my beloved. Yes. Open the door. Let there be light. And most importantly, shine.

But not through empty works or passionless deeds I think I should do. Instead, may I shine in the way my Father created me to shine. Because this is the best way I can bring Him glory… simply doing what He made me to do.

Using Your Light

He also said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it to be put on a lampstand? For nothing is concealed except to be revealed, and nothing hidden except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, he should listen!” Then He said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured and added to you. For to the one who has, it will be given, and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Mark 421-25

I stopped blogging over a year ago. Why? Because I thought it was keeping me from doing more important things. Like ministry or mission work. And so I set out to do something grand. I tried one thing and it failed miserably. I limped away feeling injured and ashamed.

Then, I set out to do the next thing. Oh my gosh was I busy. And I just couldn’t understand why I had to do it all alone. No one really came alongside me to aide my cause. And there lies the truth… it was “my” cause. Not God’s. A work to bring me glory, not Him.

The fact is I simply accomplished an empty work hoping to prove myself. Look at me, everyone! I’m busy. I’m doing something for the kingdom. A miserable attempt at shining God’s light because it was really just a veiled attempt to shine my own.

The worst part? I put something God gave me to the side. He gifted me with a specific passion and I neglected it for well over a year. In a sense, I dug a hole and hid my talent. I hid me. And by doing so, I ended up hiding Him. Hiding God’s light by hiding my own.

How crazy is that?

And so the above passage from Mark resonates. Because it’s a warning, really. God’s telling me to use what He gave me. He’s telling me to unearth what I’d buried. And the scariest part? If I don’t start using what He dispensed, He’ll take it from me.

“Gifted and Talented”

When I was a little girl, I was part of the “Gifted and Talented” program at school. And quite rightly, they no longer call it that because we’re all gifted and talented in our own way. We all have the capacity to shine if we’re operating with the tools He provided us.

Me? I was selected because I liked to draw. That’s why I got to participate in the program and I liked it. Because it made me feel special. It brought me some attention. And dare I say a little bit of glory?

Anyway, God stitched an artistic bone into my being as He knit me together in my mama’s womb. Later in life, He awakened another passion. He gave me the desire to write and I did so with wild abandon.

In the Fall of 2011, I began to write and it consumed me for years. The problem was I got carried away by this new “gift” and a war began in my heart. Yes, my flesh began to crave the little bit of glory writing brought my way.

Just like that little girl I was when I participated in “gifted and talented.”

That’s when I decided I should put it away. I decided I couldn’t handle the compliments so I dug a hole and buried God’s gifts. I thought it better to pursue other other methods of light shining like busyness. Ministry, I called it. Because writing and painting just didn’t seem to be enough.

Fortunately, a lesson from Matthew 25:14-30 teaches me otherwise. Furthermore, it underscores the stern lesson of using your light (or losing it).

See, there were three servants and their master gave to each “talents.” It was money… the equivalent of 200 pounds of silver or 100 pounds of gold. One was given five talents, another given two, and the last received one talent – each given according to their ability.

The first two servants did well. The one who received five gained five more and the one who received two gained two. But the slave who received only one talent dug a hole and buried it. In his defense, he told his master he was afraid so he hid it. He said, “Look you have what is yours.”

His master’s words are terrifying. “You evil, lazy slave…” He took the talent away and gave it to the one who had ten. And his words reiterate the very ones from Mark 4 I find so scary…

“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw this good for nothing slave into the outer darkness.”

And that’s where the servant ended up. Darkness. Which brings to mind what I said earlier. “The darkness came back.” My revelation being that this is where I’ll end up when I don’t use my talent, which really belongs to God anyway.

Yes, I believe my not doing what God made me to do brought on the darkness. Because when I’m not doing what I love, I feel lifeless. Purposeless. And so the hole I dug to hide me and my talent turns into a grave…

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“I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I painted the above picture recently. It’s my dad and me. And I like that Daddy’s giving me his love. I also like that Daddy resembles Jesus here. Jesus with a headband.

Anyway, my dad gave me what he had to give. Like a hug every. And Jesus? Well, He gave what He had to give, too. Like light. And He still gives it.

As for the darkness that recently came my way, well, I don’t think I was following Him. And the promise of light is for those who follow Him. I just got side-tracked. And the further I went in my own direction, the darker it got.

But some random man woke me up yesterday. He said to leave the door open and let the sun shine in. And from here on out, I pray that I do.

I pray to uncover what was hidden. Like the words He places within… messages that burn so bright. I pray to put my “gifts and talents” on a lampstand because that’s the best way to shine His light. The purest way to bring Him glory.

And God help me if I don’t because I believe what He says. He warns that if I keep what He gives me hidden, He’ll give them to someone else. Someone who’ll use them and multiply them.

So I pray…

Yes, God, please give me the courage to shine your light in a dark place. Equip me to use what you gave. Because You made a promise… You said more will come my way.

More gifts and more talents and more light…

All for Your glory. 

Yes, this is how I can shine my light.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. Isaiah 60:1

A Bowl Girl

“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand…” Jeremiah 18:2-4 and 6

About seven or eight years ago, my husband and I visited a town called Seagrove, which is known for its pottery. We spent several hours there visiting shop after shop and admiring all the different vessels. Before visiting Seagrove, I never gave much thought to pottery… I just thought bowls. But in Seagrove, I saw a treasure of urns, jugs, pitchers, soap dispensers, plates, platters, and cups, among other earthenware. Each shop housed a myriad of vessels, each one a different shape and size, each one varying slightly in color or texture. No two were exactly alike. And that’s what makes pottery special. Each piece is unique and not to be duplicated. Kind of like us… God’s own earthenware.

Although I was faced with many beautiful pieces that day in Seagrove, I selected a bowl. See, I’m a bowl girl and I simply adore them… all shapes, all sizes. When we were first married, I received several sets, but I didn’t part with any of them. Because to me, there’s something satisfying about the way a bowl looks. I have so many today, but my favorites are the old and scarred ones. I have several pieces of Fire King that remind me of my grandmother. I also have a couple of white bowls that belonged to her, and those are my favorites. Although the white ones are the most simple, and have not a spark of color, they are dearest to me because I remember how my grandmother filled them with sausage gravy. Just like pottery, her sausage gravy cannot be duplicated… hers was unique.

There were a lot of flashy, bright bowls in Seagrove, but I chose a more subdued one… kind of deep brown overlaid with olive green, and almost unrecognizable is turquoise peeking through. And what I really love about this bowl is how it shimmers and gleams in the sunlight. At first glance, the bowl looks drab, but upon closer inspection you see the glimmer. However, it has to be in the light to shine. And you know what I did? At first, it was displayed on my sofa table. I thought it was pretty and wanted to showcase it. And where it was, it did catch some light. But basically, it just sat there… lifeless. A few years later, it was packed away into a box and kept in storage for close to a year. When it was unearthed, I again put it on display. With each move, I used that bowl as a decoration… a piece of knick-knack. And so, over time, it lost its appeal. It became part of the lay of the land around my house. I didn’t really admire it anymore. Finally, it was relegated to the top of my fridge. Still on display, high and lofty… but in the shadows of the room. There, it caught no light.

Just a few months ago, I decided to get that bowl down from its high place. See, to me it had lost its sparkle and shine. It wasn’t as special anymore, and so I decided to use that bowl for what it made for. I actually put it on my counter where it humbly housed fruit… it became serviceable. And so I was surprised when my cousin admired it in its lowly state. She even had to pick it up and peer closely at how the flecks of light sparkled in the sun. And it caused me to take a second glance. Because I had forgotten the shine. It was a dust catcher for so long, I forgot how beautiful the bowl really is. And what strikes me today is that unless I brought that bowl down off that high place where it used to be, it never would have caught the light. It would have been high, but in the dark. It would have stayed dull and unappealing. But that bowl, when low, really shone.

You know, that bowl went through a lot to look like it did. There was a process it endured not only to make it shine, but also to make it serviceable.  First came a drying period. A kiln used low temperatures to dry out the ceramic, and remove all of the water before the final firing. When the vessel was ready, the kiln used higher temperatures and a process called burnout. The kiln was heated to such a temperature that all the impurities were burned away. The next process was sintering, which means the particles of ceramic bonded to each other… the bowl became structurally stronger. That process actually changed the particles of the ceramic from clay into finished ceramic. The final stages of making the ceramic bowl involved glazing. It’s when the piece became sealed and acquired a finished look. This process involved such high temperatures that the oxidation of the exposed ceramic increased so high that the quartz crystal structured with the ceramic actually melted and flowed together. Not a comfortable process, but it’s what makes pottery so beautiful. And it sounds downright painful in light of the fact that this is exactly what God does with us. But it’s this process that gives His vessels their shine.

“Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?'” Isaiah 45:9-10

God is making each one of us into a vessel for His glory. And we can either let God have his way with us, or we can fight the process. And how much we struggle will probably determine the length of our stay in the kiln. It would probably be helpful if we could begin to understand what kind of vessel it is that He’s forming. Are we urns, filled with God’s living water ready to splash it onto whoever thirsts for eternal life? Are we soap dispensers, spurting out the truth that makes sinners clean? Are we platters, holding mounds of God’s word that nourishes the soul? Or are we bowls, teeming over with the fruit of the Spirit? In essence… how has He gifted us? Is He making us an evangelist, a teacher, a missionary… or something else?

Or perhaps what’s more important to understand is where we are in the process. Are we dry as we wander through the desert on a pilgrimage to Him? Or we in that burnout process, where our impurities are being purged? Are we becoming structurally stronger as we bond to Him? Have we been transformed yet, from clay to ceramic? Are we sealed by Him? Have we been brought through such high temperatures that our selfishness has melted away, leaving only godly desires flowing alongside His own? Have we made it to that final process where we are being glazed by His fire? If so, take heart… because we’re getting ready to shine.

The fact is we are all His vessels, created by Him for His purposes. He is the potter, and we are the clay. And once we know what we are, we can be used by Him. And He wants us to know. See, I’m a bowl girl. Or I hope to be. I hope that I can step down from my high place, and cease striving with Him. I pray that I will humbly let Him make me into whatever it is that He wants me to be. If I can do that, then He will place me on His countertop… for His service. And perhaps I’ll teem over with fruit… His fruit. And just maybe, parts of me will be lit up… just like that bowl that sits on my own countertop.

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you… the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2