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Archive for the ‘spiritual gifts’ Category

“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous (Psalm 124:4).”

Today is an absolutely gorgeous late autumn here in Virginia where I live. My schedule this morning allowed me to take my walk through the pastures of the local university–a walk I treasure.

It occurred to me as I closed in on the well-known pond on campus,”What a difference a year makes.” Last year at this time I was living in a Nordic country where the daylight comes late and goes away early

As I walked I recalled the emotions of that late November. I was definitely depressed. I was apart from my family (I hadn’t seen them in almost three months), and the sun was a thing of the past.  Not only did its light only appear a few hour a day, but there was some much overcast that I rarely saw the object itself.

Yet, today there was a bright sun ball in the blue sky. I was surrounded by greenery and water. It was like I had gone from hell to heaven in the space of 12 months.

A passage from the devotional Streams in the Desert describes well my emotional state one year ago:

“All-loving Father, sometimes we have walked under starless skies that dripped darkness like drenching rain. We despaired of starshine or moonlight or sunrise. The sullen blackness gloomed above us as if it would last forever. And out of the dark there spoke no soothing voice to mend our broken hearts. We would gladly have welcomed some wild thunder peal to break the torturing stillness of that overbrooding night.

Yet, something came out of that period. It drove me to my knees.

When I wasn’t working, I had time to spend with the Lord. And I did a lot of that, especially on Sundays.

Streams in the Desert, in the same passage, goes on to portray  what happened to me as well as this author:

“But Thy winsome whisper of eternal love spoke more sweetly to our bruised and bleeding souls than any winds that breathe across Aeolian harps. It was Thy ‘still small voice’ that spoke to us. We were listening and we heard. We looked and saw Thy face radiant with the light of love. And when we heard Thy voice and saw Thy face, new life came back to us as life comes back to withered blooms that drink the summer rain.”

Somehow in my loneliness and darkness my relationship with God grew to be the best it had ever been. It was just me, the Lord and the black.

One of my friends recently told me that he thought of me as Job’s second cousin. I have been thinking of that comment ever since.

In one way I think of it as an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as a man like Job. On the other hand, I have thought that my life and that of Job differ in one respect.

His plight eventually came to an end.  God restored his  fortunes. My difficulties go on and on, with no end in sight.

My pastor told me a couple of months ago,”You’re just in a season of life right now.” The inference was that “this too shall pass”. I looked at him with an expression of,”I don’t know about that.”

Sometimes I see light at the end of the tunnel. For example, I am so boxed in that I pretty much have to use my one talent to get by.

As a result, I think that perhaps God has enclosed me so as to force me into using my gifts. Otherwise, my attitude would be,”I can’t do that. I must do this.”

Now, it appears He has placed me in such a condition that He is telling me,”No. You must do this. You must listen to me (finally!) and do what I called you to do  a long time ago. You just need to trust Me and the promises I have given you.”

That is astounding to me, that God would think that much of me to actually set me on a path to my dreams being fulfilled, especially this late in the game. The jury is still out on whether or not that is what is happening, but I’m listening–and watching for the light to reappear!

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).”

He comes to visit speech therapist Lionel Logue as  “Mr. Johnson”. He wants help with his stammering. In reality,  he is Albert, the Duke of York, third in line to the throne of the United Kingdom.

This is the storyline that opens “The King’s Speech”, this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture. While I am sure the moviemakers embellished the facts, the story is essentially true.

 The celebrity and power of his patient doesn’t impress Lionel. In his therapy room, he is the boss. “My castle, my rules”, he tells his royal visitor. He even calls the son of the king, “Bertie”, a nickname only his family is allowed to use.

At first, the Duke of York chafes under the seeming impertinence and hubris of his therapist. In fact, he tells him at the end of the first visit that Lionel’s methods aren’t for him.

However, after listening to a recording of himself, which Lionel gave him upon taking his leave, the Duke relents. The therapist’s methods have allowed Bertie to speak fluently for the first time in his life.

After a while, Lionel’s work with Bertie bears even more fruit, both in the latter’s speech, and in his heart. Bertie begins to open up to Lionel. 

“You know, Lionel, you’re the first ordinary Englishman…”, Bertie says.

Lionel interrupts, “Australian”. 

Bertie continues,”…I’ve ever really spoken to.  Sometimes when I ride through the streets and see, you know, the Common Man staring at me, I’m struck by how little I know of his life, and how little he knows of mine.”

Lionel, with his wry wit, says,”What’re friends for.”

Bertie replies,”I wouldn’t know.”

Bertie’s sardonicism would be funny if it weren’t so true of his life. He is a lonely man. He has no friends -until now.

Lionel has become his closest and only friend. It is clear to Bertie that this man, who is doing everything he can to heal him, is more than just a professional.

Bertie perceives that Lionel really cares for and about him. Lionel is not in this for the money, although he is being paid handsomely.

Part of what makes him effective as a therapist is his sympathy for the emotional condition of his patients. One might call this “sympathy” by another name: love.

He is the kind of friend described in the lyrics from a popular alternate country hit composed by Ryan Williams:

“Where do you go when you’re lonely
Where do you go when you’re blue
Where do you go when you’re lonely
I’ll follow you
When the stars go blue…”

“The King’s Speech” reveals that when Bertie is blue, he visits Lionel. He feels comfortable in the presence of his friend. And Lionel is there when Bertie’s stars go blue.

In one scene, Bertie drops by Lionel’s quarters unannounced. This doesn’t perturb Lionel. He receives his friend, and asks him if he wants to do some work on his speech impediment.

In the meantime, Lionel’s wife is shocked to learn when she meets Bertie that her husband is friends with such a royal personage. Lionel has never revealed their relationship to her.

But, Mrs. L regroups and asks if Bertie and his wife will stay for dinner. Bertie’s wife demurs, claiming a previous engagement (can’t imagine what!), but in doing so adds.”What a pity.” Two couples from different addresses in society might as well be neighbors talking about planning a night of cards.

Lionel’s sincere love for Bertie is biblical in nature and magnificent in its effect. The wise man of Proverbs wrote,”One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend(Prov 22:11).”

Lionel’s ability to “speak with grace” was passed on to the King. The King was forever in his debt. 

Todd Rundgren wrote a song in the early 70s that hits on the the lonely void in Bertie’s heart that his friend Lionel filled.

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine…

Seeing you
Or seeing anything as much as I do you
I take for granted that you’re always there…

It’s important to me
That you know you are free
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me

Think of me
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
Or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.”

Bertie knows the status that separates them. He doesn’t care. He loves his friend. It’s not a sexual love, but it’s love just the same.

Damn Yankees star Jack Blades wrote a song that could apply to Bertie and his relationship with Lionel:

“Can you take me high enough
Can you fly me over (fly me over) yesterday
Can you take me high enough
It’s never over
Yesterday’s just a memory, I’m running
I was running for the door
The next thing I remember
I was running back for more…”

Having a life changing friendship is a scary thing. It involves vulnerability.

After he came back to see Lionel following the first speech therapy visit, Bertie learned how high Lionel could take him if he opened his life to his friend. As portrayed in “The King’s Speech”, Lionel nursed Bertie through the dark days of World War II, when as King George VI he had to do his own comforting.

He had to give public speeches to assuage the fears of an entire people. Through Bertie, Lionel’s love and use of his talents impacted a whole nation.

I am not a person with the gift of elocution, but I do fancy myself as a person gifted by God with abilities with the written word. I want to use this gift for others, as Lionel used his.

Jack Blades writes lyrics for a living, but he says this of his work:

“I had a letter that was sent to me, it was some … lyrics that I wrote,…’ that this young man said, ‘because of your lyrics, I ended up not killing myself. Because your words said life is what you make it, you can do anything with your life.’ And Tommy (his fellow musician) and I always talked about that, it was kind of like, maybe that was the whole reason that I’m a musician. Maybe that’s the whole reason I was on this earth is to save that one person from making probably the worst mistake they could ever make in their life. Maybe that was the whole reason we even exist was to save that one person. It’s pretty cool, I think.  It is pretty stunning when you think about it. It makes you sit back and go, Well, okay, I did something right in my life. You know what I mean? I did something good, that’s a good thing.”

Blades saved one person. So did Lionel. His save-ee just happened to become the King of England.

Blades, in an interview with the website Songfacts discusses the source of his gifting. He tells his interviewer that a colleague couldn’t understand how lyrics just come to writers like him. Blades explained:

“I thought that was interesting, because to me it just happens. It’s not something that’s really cool, or something that’s really a big thing, it’s just something that happens that I do. Like I drive a car – except I come up with rhymes. I don’t look at it as anything special. It’s just how I’ve been all my life, so I don’t see it as something really unique and amazing, because it’s just what I do. Half the time it is like you’re like channeling something. When you sit down and write a song, it’s almost like you’re channeling a higher power, whom I choose, of course, to call God…”

Of course this “higher power” is God. If God speaks to a man, as a man speaks to his friend it is sweet indeed (Song of Solomon 5:16). 

And if that same man passes on what he hears from God, then the sweetness is multiplied (Proverbs 27:29). If he does it when times are tough, he is more than a friend, he is a brother (Proverbs 17:17).

I’ve got a couple friends who are like brothers. They have literally saved my life at times, as Lionel did with Bertie.

These men have used their gifts to bless me in my pain. When I was doing a “stutter and go” in my life, they came to my rescue.

It costs to do that. It takes courage. It takes time. It takes a man.

I don’t earn any money writing, but make my bread teaching. Therefore, I am around young people every day.

Sure, I get paid to serve my students, but I am beginning to see that not everything can be defined in professional terms. These young adults are human beings, some of them with spouses and children.

I don’t get paid to love them, not in money anyway.  I get to do that for free. So did Lionel Logue.

Lord, help me to be grow to be the kind of man Lionel Logue was, and  my own friends and brothers are.

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 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).”

Today my wife forwarded an Email to me that contained the subject line “biblical temple exhibit in his back yard”.  When I read through the text and looked at the photos of the work of the man who built the exhibit, I agreed with the comment in the text that read,”Amazing”.

The text of the Email begins:

“A retired farmer has spent more than 30 years building an enormous scale model of a Biblical temple. Alec Garrard, 78, has dedicated a massive 33,000 hours to constructing the ancient Herod’s  Temple , which measures a whopping 20 foot by 12 foot.

The pensioner has hand-baked and painted every clay brick and tile and even sculpted 4,000 tiny human figures to populate the courtyards. 

Historical experts believe the model is the best representation in the world of what the Jewish temple actually looked like and it has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the globe. But Mr. Garrard, who started the elaborate project in his 40s, says his masterpiece will not be finished in his lifetime.”

He has received acclaim from archeologists and other experts for his work, and no wonder. His temple didn’t just appear out of thin air. He researched the Temple of Herod for three years before he even began to construct his model.

Garrard had something else that motivated him. He said, I’ve always loved making models  and as I was getting older I started to think about making one big project which would see me through to the end of my life.”

What impresses me most about Garrard is that he found his passion and matched it with his gift. Garrard said, “I have an interest in buildings and religion so I thought maybe I could combine the two and I came up with the idea of doing the  Temple .” 

In addition, I admire him in that he keeps learning:.

“I’d seen one or two examples of it in Biblical exhibitions, but I thought they were rubbish and I knew I could do better. I’ve been working on it for decades, but it will never be finished as I am always finding something new to add.”

I just started taking a class at church which is supposed to help me discover my spiritual gifts. I’ve been a Christian a long time, and I thought I knew what they were already, but some new information in the first class surprised me.

Our book mentioned a gift I had never heard of: creative communication. It cited Psalm 150:3-5 as a reference from the Bible concerning this gift.

The passage above has to do with musical talent. But the authors of the book (Network, by Bugbee and Cousins) describe creative communication this way: “The divine enablement to communicate God’s truth through a variety of art form.”

People who hold this gift have the ability to “use variety and creativity to captivate people and cause them to consider Christ’s message…”.  Those so gifted with creative communication also are able to “challenge people’s perspective of God…” and “demonstrate fresh ways to express the Lords’s ministry and message.”

My ears and eyes perked up during this class when I encountered this information. This was because one of the creative communication art forms mentioned is writing.

I’ve been told all my life by many people that I am a good writer. However, up until now I had never considered the possibility that it might be a spiritual gift.

Occasionally someone will read one of these devotionals and note the insight in  it. There are times when I write here that I do feel as if  I am getting some fresh message from the Lord.

Now, I do not write this in an attitude of boastfulness, nor do I consider what I write to be extra biblical. It’s just that I think there may be times God allows me to see a new spin on things and communicate it.

If this is true, it has biblical precedent. Jesus once said that a disciple in His kingdom who teaches His Word ” is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old (Matthew 13:52).”

Mr. Garrard motivates me because it was late into his life when he began his amazing project. I am also putting on some grey hairs (and not all of them on my head).  He inspires me because I see from his life that it is never too late to begin using your gift for God’s glory.

I have no idea if Mr. Garrard believes in Jesus Christ. However, if he does, his gift is also mentioned in the Bible: craftsmanship. The authors of my church textbook would say he has been enabled by God to creatively design and build items to be used for ministry.

His temple is surely ministering to people. By viewing it, one can get some perspective on what life was like for the people who worshipped there. One can even picture in their minds Jesus teaching there, or chasing the moneylenders out of the place.

I am grateful that Mr. Garrard chose not to hide his gift away. His work and example has encouraged me to do the same.

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