Are You Parenting Your Gifts?

I wanted to write a post last week as we approached Mother’s Day, but life’s circumstances kept me from it.  Life isn’t what it used to be and it seems to be crowding out my passions more and more, but maybe the delay was there to give me time to think a little differently.  Maybe this post needed a “twist”

shutterstock_129320129Many of you who know me or have read my blog for the past few years know that I did not give birth to children of my own.  I used to say I was not “blessed” with children of my own, but I have tried to change the way I look at it.  Children are certainly a blessing from God, but so is every other gift with which God blesses us.  And just like it is the responsibility of a mother or father to nurture, grow and raise his/her child, it is our job to nurture, grow and raise our appointed gifts.  One gift from God is not greater than another and if we are living as we should, we will not treat them as such – in ourselves or in looking at those around us.  God entrusts all of us with specific gifts that require sacrifice, patience, responsibility, passion, love in order to raise them.  Those gifts also often bring us disappointment, frustration, and heartaches as we see them not turning out the way we planned, or when we make mistakes in how we raise them.

We need to start looking at our lives differently.  We need to open our eyes to the world around us and recognize where we are being called to serve.  It’s just so incredibly easy to get lazy and not walk out the path for which we are chosen.  It’s easier to become a lazy parent of our gifts.  It’s easy to feel those gifts tugging at us for attention but simply offer up something to keep them occupied so that we can go on living the lives WE want instead of realizing the importance of doing the hard work that comes with nurturing and growing that which God placed within us.  I admit, I have often found myself the lazy parent of my gifts.  This blog has many times reminded me of it.  The intentions are good but the execution is lacking.  I have made excuses in my mind for all the reasons that keep me from my writing, or working on my books, or doing something with my music, or reaching out to find opportunities to speak.  I’m not saying the distractions aren’t valid, because most of them are, but I am saying that it is easy to give up and stop trying whenever life gets too complicated or too busy.  Just like a parent with a child, sometimes I’m just too tired to put in the effort anymore.  In the long run, that not only makes me feel I’m failing as the parent/steward of my gifts, but it can also have lasting impacts on the effectiveness of those gifts or what they turn out to be.

shutterstock_782571799We really are all gifted in certain ways.  God has given to each of us the abilities and interests we need in order to fulfill what we are called to do.  He has equipped us to walk whatever paths are before us, and He has promised to go with us wherever we go, but there are times those paths (or those gifts) feel like a burden.  I don’t know a parent who hasn’t had times of feeling burdened by the responsibility of raising his/her children.  It doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids, but the reality of day-to-day living is far more challenging than anticipated.  There are discouragements and frustrations that come along that make them question if they are doing the right things or dealing with their kids in the best ways to ensure they grow up to be good people.  The same is true of our other gifts and talents.  We know what we are called to do, or we recognize the gifts within us, but it is a continual learning process as to how we need to nurture them.  We make decisions that involve our gifts and then second guess if that was really the best use of them.  Other times we make obvious mistakes in the direction we go and then beat ourselves up for it.

Living with purpose isn’t easy in the chaos of our busy lives.  Just like parents can become so distracted by everything that is continually pulling at them, we can get distracted by so many things the enemy devises to keep us from nurturing what God has given us.  We can become so overwhelmed by our lives that we no longer even see our gifts, let alone know how to use them.  We end up lost in a sea of fear, doubt, depression or anxiety and then feel like giving up.  Being overloaded with life makes us want to just zone out and not have to consider our never-ending responsibilities.

shutterstock_760829524There is another aspect of parenting that also applies greatly to our gifts: protection.  Parents must protect their children, and we must also protect our gifts.  Our talents, abilities and callings must be protected.  People can be so mean and so incredibly judgmental of what we do with our lives.  They can discourage us, or even try to forbid us from using our gifts when it doesn’t fit their ideas or beliefs about what we should be doing.  People may even belittle the gifts themselves, making them seem meaningless or trivial when compared to the gifts or talents of others.  For example, someone with the ability to be a great musician, speaker, athlete or business-man/woman are often lauded to have great gifts.  It is “respectable” or “honorable” to be a doctor, lawyer, singer, athlete, etc.   On the other hand, the man or woman who is gifted to understand people with disabilities, or to clean homes/buildings, drive a bus, or anything else that isn’t as “shiny,” are viewed as having lesser gifts.  What about people who have the gift of praying or service?  You know them, the ones who are quietly faithful to do whatever it is God has given to them to do, without accolades or applause.  Are their gifts any less valuable?  On the contrary, I’d say they have the greatest gifts of all!   My point is that we don’t know each other’s children as well as know our own, and the moment we start thinking our gifts are better than someone else’s just because they look different, we are treading on very thin ice.

Maybe we don’t think we received the gifts we should have, or the gifts we wanted, but they are chosen for us by the God who spoke the worlds into order and knows everything ahead in our journeys.  That’s a pretty impressive and special thing to consider.  God doesn’t expect us to all be able to do the same things because He didn’t equip us to do the same things.  We need to stop looking at other people’s “children” and comparing them to our own.  What matters is how you raise YOUR gifts!  If you are called to serve, then serve with all your heart.  If you are called to pray, then pray mightily without doubting (as James 1 tells us).  If you are called to encourage, then do it.  If you are called to be a doctor, then be the best doctor you can be!  Whatever it is that you do, it is important because God chose you to do it.  Your prayers, service, cleaning, listening, forgiving, helping are equally as important as the brain or heart surgeries, arguing court cases, landing planes, or anything else.

shutterstock_217599499So today, I hope we will all step back and consider the gravity of parenting our respective gifts.  It is a responsibility, and it can be difficult and disappointing at times, but it can also be a source of great joy!  You are not here by chance, and you are not here to just take up space.  We are here “for such a time as this,” and we need to turn our focus upward.  We need to live according to the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness that has been given to us by our Heavenly Father and extend those things to the world around us.  We need to encourage each other’s gifts, not envy them. We need to support each other, not tear each other down.  We need to recognize the specialness of our own gifts from God and feel honored to be entrusted with raising them.  There may not be a holiday here on earth to commemorate or honor us for the raising of our gifts, but if we do it humbly as we are called to do, there is coming day where we will be honored by our Heavenly Father when we hear the words, “Well done.”

Blessings!

There Has To Be More…

What in the world is wrong with Christians?  As a person of faith, that may seem like an odd question for me to be asking, but it is one I have been considering for a while.  First of all, the term “Christian” brings up all kinds of different images, experiences and feelings depending on the person who is hearing the word.  For the most part, it is not a positive term, because it is so often filled with hypocrisy and perceived oppression.  I do not call myself a Christian, because although I have been redeemed and saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I do not always live the way He lived or abide by the loving principles He gave us.  So I call myself a believer or a person of faith because I am those things.  But I digress.

My own view of Christianity and spirituality has certainly deepened over the course of my life but the deeper I go, the more I realize how much is still out there.  I was raised in churches that most today would consider very conservative.  There were (as there are in most religions) many man-made traditions that had to be followed in regards to the way services were conducted and how things were taught.  There was no shouting for joy in our churches.  That was reserved for those crazy charismatic people.  There was no teaching about the true POWER of the Holy Spirit, but instead a clinical and sterile teaching about what I would consider the most high-level functions of the Spirit.  shutterstock_222016312We learned that once we accept Christ as our Savior, His Spirit comes to live within us.  We learned God knows everything we do or think.  We learned that He loves us, but we never really talked about that love as a literal, day-to-day LOVE.  It was clinical and sterile because it seemed to me that no one really walked out of the church and actually felt God’s presence with them.  I learned scripture.  I learned the books of the Bible.  I learned principles of God’s word.  I am SO incredibly thankful for my upbringing and the many teachers and pastors I had along the way, because it gave me a foundation upon which I have built a life that has been blessed beyond measure.  Many of you who know me personally or read my blog regularly know that I have felt called to study and share God’s word since I was quite young.  So my life has been filled with searching things out on my own instead of just taking someone else’s word for it.  But there’s something about those experiences in established churches that is both a blessing and yet confining.  Yes, I realize it is just my perspective and I’m not saying anyone else has to share it.  I just feel it is time to share mine.

I have struggled with many things over the course of my life.  There have been eating disorders, suicidal impulses, brain chemistry issues, and many other fears and struggles that we all deal with as we go through each day.  I’ve prayed about these things.  I’ve sought God’s help with them and yet often find myself much like the apostle Paul who prayed repeatedly for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed but the answer was no.  The answer was that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.  So I took that as truth and tried to just power through whatever came instead of realizing God was in it with me. It was (and has continued to be at times) difficult.  Did I know God cares and that He wants to not only be my Savior, but also my friend?  Sure.  I could give you verse after verse that talks about all the ways He loves and cares for us.  I know all the right words…but something was missing.  It is the intimacy of God and the true strength of His power.  After all, if you start talking about these things…wait, if you start actually LIVING these things, you must be some “holy-roller” fanatic that has lost sight of the truth.  So maybe I shouldn’t ask “What is wrong with Christians,” but rather, “What is wrong with ME?”

I am blessed to have been taught by some of the most amazing teachers over the past 20 years of my life.  Some were within the churches I have attended and some have been outside those churches.  GASP!  I know that shocks the traditionalists but maybe there needs to be a little more shocking going on. Maybe we need to listen more to others and pay attention to what they say.  Maybe we need to spend more time determining the message’s validity based on God’s word instead of determining its validity based on the moniker under which it is said. Of course, that requires an openness many of us were taught to avoid and to listen only to people of the same denomination. shutterstock_123443956 What I have found so interesting over the years is how we can teach and learn the truth of God’s word, and even apply it to our lives in most ways, but do it in that same sterile and clinical manner in which many of us have been raised.  It isn’t simply that I don’t want this kind of sterile spiritual life; It’s that I don’t believe GOD wants us to have a sterile kind of spiritual life either.  He desires for us to be in a real relationship with Him, not just a spiritual one.  He wants us to not just know He is with us, but to feel Him with us.  He wants us to understand that He wants nothing more than for us to share ourselves with Him just as we would the people we are closest to here on this earth.  He wants to be a factor in everything we do, not because He wants to control us, but because He wants to help us.

Having a relationship with another human being means there is interaction.   There is give and take.  There is a desire to be near and talk with each other.  And when you truly love someone (purely, not in a romantic sense), there is nothing better than the closeness it brings.  You are part of each other.  Relationship isn’t just about knowledge of the other person; it is being IN IT with them.  We know this and yet we continue to act as though God is somehow removed from us even though we teach that He isn’t.  We are so afraid of talking about our relationship with God in terms we would use to describe our relationships with others, because we somehow think it is sacrilegious to assign human attributes to our Heavenly Father.   I get how some people are so careful to keep their discussion and perspective of God as “holy,” but holy isn’t some magical word!  It means to be set apart by (or for) God.  It isn’t some mysterious thing filled with such seriousness that it wrings the joy out of it.  shutterstock_214295497And on top of that, God used parables in the Bible continually to make things real and understandable to those around Him.  A parable uses the known to reveal the unknown.  So why do we shrink away from the fact that God gives us earthly experiences and relationships so that we can understand more what it means to be in a relationship with Him?  Because some of us have been taught, whether through words or actions, that we somehow degrade Him when we bring Him down to our level.  Imagine that!  I’m pretty sure the God who actually CHOSE to come down to our level and die for us is fine with staying down on our level and communing with us so that we can then rise up to His.

I’m tired of conservative Christianity.  I’m not saying I’m tired of one religion or another; I’m saying I’m tired of all of them.  I’m tired of having this great knowledge and God-given ability to discern His word that has to be put into some box of expression that fits the expectations of men!  I’m not saying I want to run off the rails and live on emotions alone, but there is nothing more “on track” about a relationship with God than the fact a real one will certainly stir emotions!  Relationships are personal.  Each one is different.  We need to all get over the rigid view we have of the truth and embrace it openly, fervently with everything in us.  Only then will we fully begin to experience the true power of His Spirit within us.  Only then will we begin to truly understand the freedom in His word.  If it is true that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” then the truth is the only real relationship we ever have with God is the one most of us are afraid to embrace.  Because anything short of that kind of intimacy with Him is nothing more than simply keeping up appearances.

Blessings!