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Bring on the Peace

27 Aug

So, yesterday was my first full day on my individual stewardship campaign in response to God’s question, “What will you give?”  As I mentioned earlier I have designed a task for each of the three “channels of giving”:  Time, Talent and Treasure.  Remarkably I did pretty decently.  Particularly if I get to count the partial day from before 🙂

Time

Initially when I considered that I was going to have to spend two and a half hours each day giving time to God, I had visions of myself kneeling on stone floors in meditative silence.  I imagined anyone who committed that much time to “God time” is worthy of robes and must have close ties to some monastic order.  After having started this challenge however, I discovered two and a half hours can go pretty fast.  In fact, I have been concerned that it came too easily.  I will be considering this over the next couple of days to be sure that I am being rigorous enough in my definitions.

In my two and a half hours I have included devotion/Christian reading time.  I have been reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Ironically, this was already on my reading list before I began this quest to focus and simplify.  My concern is that I am enjoying reading it way too much.  Back to the whole monastic thing, my knees are really not sore enough to feel good about the book . The redeeming factor is that it is compelling in it’s message, we live in a culture that is wildly out of touch with the abundance that swallows to the point that we pity ourselves for what we don’t have while 95%+ of the rest of the world sustains themselves on a fraction of the resources of our low income families possess.  Naturally in this season of purge, the message resonates with me.  I have found myself sitting in bed reading, and as I read I peruse the room filled with overflowing shelves, bursting closets and drawers that can’t be closed.  It is like having my own personal cheerleader between two book covers encouraging me on my quest.  God was swell in giving me just the right reading at just the right time.

I have also found service oriented call-answering seems to come relatively easily.  In life, I am a doer.  If there is a job to be done (except dishes), I tend to volunteer.  My family grows concerned whenever I join a new organization, because in the end I will be in charge of something if not the entire organization.  I think the most difficult part with this aspect of the task is to consider what counts as “God time” and what is just me.  It is easy to classify many things into service, however, there is a distinct difference between serving in response to God’s call and doing something because you it sounded good to you.  One can still do swell things that have fabulous merit even if they aren’t things that God called you to.  However, there is an opportunity for growth and development in your relationship to God through answering His call.  So while both opportunities have merit, one offers a spiritual depth the other doesn’t necessarily.  Yesterday I completely lost myself in knitting a prayer shawl.  It is easy to allow your mind to become distracted and focused on so many other things when you are knitting.  I have definitely been known to watch TV, or more recently watch a football game (which explains the grass in the yarn, while knitting.  Yesterday though, I realized that this was one of those opportunities to focus and center.  I wanted this particular shawl to be covered with blessings, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to consider the circumstances of the gal I was making it for.  I took the time to pray.  I consider the blessings I have and often take for granted.  I smiled as I considered the acts of kindness folks have done for me.  I was overwhelmed when I thought about the greatness of God, His faithfulness and the strength my faith offers.  Over an hour was easily passed without realizing it.  Over an hour without diversion … without conversation … without sound.

Despite all that was gained in these experiences, I have realized that my actual scripture reading could use a boost.  This tends to be a rough one for me, but like exercise, once I get started I find myself re-energized and looking for more.  I think that the days ahead are going to need a Bible injection, so if you have any particular insights on how you go about this with out picking random passages blindfolded, let me know 🙂

Talent

I am completely unsure if I have failed in this area abysmally or not.  I have challenged myself to work towards identifying and using my talents for the glorification of God.  At the end of the day, I am not sure how much progress I have made.  I considered my knitting earlier in the day, and asked myself, “Is this the talent I am to be including.”  Two things cause me to hesitate:  1)It is definitely not a unique skill or talent.  There are a plethora of folks who are “knitters”, and besides the doctor said cool it on the knitting.  2)I am not particularly fabulous at it.  I will allow a marginal check mark in this column in that I use my knitting exclusively for others.  In the years that I have been knitting, I have never completed a project for myself.  Oops, I lie, I have made some dish towels – and I do like them.  But I struggle, because it just doesn’t feel like it fits.

The other struggle with this area is just this overactive sense of modesty, but probably more aptly titled lack of confidence.  I feel so shameful and guilty for identifying talents.  This is further exacerbated by my second guessing as to whether I am actually as talented as I suppose I am, and perhaps I am on some poorly focused ego trip.  The only thing that keeps this whole thing from spinning out of control into a whirlpool sucking me right down to the therapist’s couch is a realization that I am one of God’s creations, and that in and of itself makes me special and blessed.

While in the book of Romans and I Corinthians we are offered a list of gifts that make anyone blush:  healing, prophesy, exhortation, miracle worker and such, I came across a verse in Exodus that illustrates some more mundane (albeit creative) talents that God has specifically placed within individuals for the purpose of His glorification.

The Lord spoke to Moses:  See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:   and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft. Moreover, I have appointed with him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent,  the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its stand, and the finely worked vestments, the holy vestments for the priest Aaron and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests,  and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the holy place. They shall do just as I have commanded you. (Exodus 31:1-11 NRSV)

What I wonder when reading this, did Bezalel and Oholiab recognize their gifts as blessings directly from God?  When they crafted things, not just those things mandated, but lamps for their house or forks for friends, did they considered them a means of glorifying God or even consider God as the source of their skill?  I think about the things I accomplish in a day and wonder 1)how appreciative am I for the gifts I have and 2)if I use those gifts to point toward His Kingdom.  I talk all the time how glad I am that I can cook, because how much I like to eat good food.  I figured if I’m not going to be wealthy enough to go to fancy restaurants, it is nice that I can make some of the stuff myself.  I just don’t think I ever really think about that being a gift that God has given me, nor do I necessarily seek ways to build the Kingdom through cooking.

Oh so much to think about, but thankfully I have two months to ponder all of this. 🙂

Treasure

So far I have done pretty derned good with this, but to be honest I started in the bathroom.  I expect that I downsized my bathroom by 25% (if you don’t count towels, which I don’t  because none of them were clean nor in the bathroom).  Of course it feels a little like cheating.  I rarely bond to bath soap, hair products and perfumes.  It did feel good to show the man-person, Jeff, that I sent crud away.  I am actually pretty excited to dig into another room.  I so yearn for the peace that will come when I don’t see things everywhere.  I am hopeful that God will help direct me towards folks who will be blessed by my excess.  If nothing else it will help make amends for my squanderasness.  (Yes that is my own word – words have to start somewhere.)

An equally important effort, I had not considered when taking up this challenge is the intake side.  A friend and I are suppose to go thrift storing soon.  In my mind, I imaged it would be a great opportunity to drop off donations while I loaded up on some deals … hmm.  Thinking there needs to be a stipulation that my net reduction is 10%, because how much good does it do to downsize by 10% and then upsize by 12%.

I think for today I am going to anchor myself on this:  “ For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”  (1 Corinthians 14:33a)

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2 Responses to “Bring on the Peace”

  1. Judy August 27, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Re: talents – The Amish dedicate every task that they do to God, and seek to honor and glorify Him as they do each one. While I don’t think I have a special talent for housework of any kind, I can still honor God as I do any and every thing that I do. So can you. I am trying to be more mindful about how I do things, and I think this is a good practice. Rather than stressing out about maximizing or optimizing your talents, just try to be mindful as you go through your day, and dedicate all that you do to Him. Good luck!

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