The thing that mustn’t change: Use Your Gifts!

My predecessor just keep using his gifts day after day for 38 years.

The difficult truth that few seem interested in hearing these days is that the stuff we receive in our social media feeds is overwhelmingly not convincing anyone to change their minds about anything.  Minds were mostly made up, one way or the other, about the supreme court nominee, long before the hearing on Thursday, and as a result, everything that has happened since only served to confirm predisposed biases.

It can be tempting in such an environment to think that shouting louder or editing our writing or footage better will somehow persuade.  I doubt it.  We’re living, overwhelmingly, in tribal, self-referential echo chambers.  I’ve never seen a more divided time, and I’m not alone in my assessment.  After the exhausting work of trying to either persuade, or at the least, point people to ‘third way’ alternatives that are neither (for example) “Do away with ICE” nor “Summarily Evict” young people who have grown up in America” – it’s tempting to simply give up.  I mean, when shouting louder doesn’t work, or posting more doesn’t work, what’s left?

“Fan into flame the gift that God has given you…”   which means that you and I have each been wired uniquely by our creator to bless and serve this broken world.  If perfecting and using our gifts is the road we’ve been called to travel, the truth of the matter is that there are about a million seductive side roads along the way.  You can be tempted to pursue success instead of using your gifts, because success can soothe your insecurities.  You can be tempted to persuade people who, in all likelihood won’t be persuaded by you, precisely because they’re already deeply entrenched, and your attempts are born out of rage, or pride that you’re enlightened, or some other dark place.  When the shouting’s done, nobody’s convinced.  You can be tempted to invest your time in self medicating your fears, frustrations, and sorrows.  You give a finger to the world and say, “A curse on all of you… I’m redefining my life as the consumption of good coffee, good wine, and the pursuit of good ski conditions.”   And just like that, you forfeit the life for which you’re created.

There’s a better way forward:

  1. You’re blessed to be a blessing.  This means that you are still here, breathing and eating, enjoying beauty and feeling pain, because God wants you to be a blessing in some way.  Writing.  Woodwork.  Hospitality with the neighbors.  Mentoring someone younger than you.  Teaching.  Healing.  So get on with it… as you’re exhorted to do here and here.
  2. This implies that you’ve come to discover how God has made you; what your unique capacities are.  Many spend the precious commodity of time on the earth never intentionally even asking the question:  What unique contributions does God want me to make to this world?  Just asking the question is a good starting point.  As I began asking this question years ago, I realized that my best strengths are almost always related to creating.  I studied architecture because I like creating space.  I studied music composition because I like creating a collection of sounds.  And now, almost every day, I create – usually using words that become books, or sermons, or classes.
  3. Stay in the Zone.  A favorite book of mine called “Flow” talks about how 100% focus on what we’re called to do leads to a beautiful space, where time almost stands still and we’re no longer anxious about things “out there”, whether that be the leaky pipes, or the state of politics in America.  While we’re at our task(s) we’re all in – and we’re intentional about getting all in every day because we have some short term goals that keep us going back to the drawing board, or wood shop, or library, or writing software, or the homeless shelter where we serve, or medical clinic, or courtroom.  We know our craft, our calling, and are committed to it regardless of the noise and villifying and arguing that’s going on out there — we’re not scattered.

This is liberating friends.  Some people have shared that they’re disappointed I don’t write as much these days about politics or divisive social and theological issues.  I don’t write as much because ironically, while such posts easily generate four or five times more readers, they persuade almost nobody, and leave acidic and hateful words in the comments section from people who seem to enjoy nothing more than calling those who disagree with them ‘idiots’.  This isn’t helping anyone, so I’ve drastically reduced such posts.

Instead, my commitment to you is to help you shine as the light God has created you to be, and I’ll leave the shouting to others.  This isn’t intended to lead to withdrawal or silence – but engagement – it’s just that engagement that comes out from a commitment to use our gifts, build up and encourage others will be the best foundation for changing the world.

I welcome your thoughts.

9 thoughts on “The thing that mustn’t change: Use Your Gifts!

  1. Thanks for these posts, Richard. I appreciate your willingness to help us be good stewards of things within our reach. Will be looking for “Flow” a.s.a.p.

  2. I posted in my weekly blog about my log cabin celebrating its 40th birthday. During a week of vitriolic social media angst, I thought this post would be ignored for its simplicity. Yet, telling a story from the cabin’s perspective seemed to resonate deeply. Most of us have home based memories that have nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. It’s about love in a place we remember. I learned something about using my gifts….look for the common denominator and draw people together. Thanks for inspiring me with your writing.

  3. Thank you. Peter Olson forwarded this to me…I think its fantastic and aligns to our Sermon I received this week from the book The God Guarantee…

  4. I love your position here, Richard, but I also count myself among those who miss your thoughtful perspectives on the more controversial topics. I agree that a divisive comments section doesn’t help anyone, but I rarely read the comments. Rather, I find it extremely helpful to read the thought-provoking material you write, which makes me think more deeply about all sides of these issues and clarify what I myself think, and what God may think. You have valuable insight that can help people, so please don’t let yourself be silenced by the vocal minority. Perhaps it’s as simple as disabling comments on those posts?

  5. Hey Richard! Thanks for the encouragement to stay on task in the long haul of sanctification and discipleship. It’s hard to admit that our words aren’t more persuasive than they actually are, but it’s also freeing to focus on living with integrity and leaving the results to Christ. Good word!

  6. Hmm, thought about leaving a comment, but then again in light of the post – would it really matter? ;-). Thanks Richard for your devotion to keeping us all grounded on the ROCK – JESUS. Blessings.

  7. Your blog about my sphere of influence and now this blog about creating my own mission statement have so opened my eyes and also freed me in many ways. I cant worry about what goes on in every country and even at my workplace , I am called to show up and be present at the place where God called me to be and be who he wants me to be.
    Usually I run from writing mission statement , but I can see how freeing it is to have one for my own life. So I will try and get one started.
    Thank you so much for your blogs, Richard.

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