Sunday, January 27, 2008

Extra Ordinary Gifts

What we are is God's gift to us.
What we become is our gift to God.
- Eleanor Powell

In rereading my #17 of the "Thirty-six things about me as I turn thirty-six..." list in my previous post, I had to stop and think about all of the great variety of things that I wanted to be "when I grew up" and how none of things that I actually became were on the list. I am not sure what that says about me, but I have pondered it a good deal. I will say that for the period of time that they made the list, I was whole-heartedly sincere in each of their choosing. I envisioned myself getting the required education and training for each job and really visualized having success in each field. I even wrote a letter to Sea World once (I think this was at age 10 or 11) to ask what it would take to become a marine biologist and killer whale trainer. The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I spent a month at a residential music camp in South Dakota and studied under one of the horn players from the Boston Pops. One time in high school we had Career Day and we got the opportunity to shadow professionals throughout their work day and ask them questions and get a first hand look into what their job was really like, there weren't any professional symphonies around so I went for my science love and shadowed a physical therapist. I entered college as a Biology major, a lead-in to several of the careers on my list and I still took horn lessons for credit. Somehow or other though, each thing on the list, upon further examination, became not quite something to which I felt I could dedicate my life.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. - Marie Curie

As I grew in years and learned more about myself, I learned that what I really wanted to do in life was to somehow "make a difference." I know, it sounds like such a trite cliché. I would almost be embarrassed to say it if it were not so naively true. All of the things that did make the list and many of those that I actually did (but that didn't make the list) were inspired by individuals who were at one time or another at least moderately influential in my own life and whom I perceived to be making a positive difference in the lives of others (blogging included). So many people go through life on autopilot, I wanted to help them see the possibilities of something more and experience it. I think a large part of this stems in some way from watching my father progress through his cancer and die at such a young age (you can read a little more of my insight into this in this previous post), the other part, however, I think is just something that is innately hardwired into me. As I have matured though, I have learned that there are infinitely many ways to "make a difference" and that this goal can be accomplished through an equally great variety of venues.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. -- Marian Wright Edelman
This past fall while I was still working as "Membership Coordinator" at the church where I was employed, I was assigned to be part of a team that created a spiritual gifts exploration workshop. The text we chose was called Network. From a ministry oriented perspective its goal was "Getting the right people, in the right places, for the right reasons, at the right time." From a personal growth tool perspective its goal was to help individuals discover their God-given gifts which work together to form their own personal servant profile which is a combination of your passion (that indicates where you should serve), your spiritual gifts (that indicates what you should do) and your personal style (that indicates how you should serve). The problem with this program as it manifested itself in this particular location was that the message above the table was that there are inifintely many combinations of passions, gifts, and styles and all are equally valid and essential to function together to form the "Body of Christ," but the thinly veiled message was that some combinations were unacceptable. If you read my post on Extra Ordinary Community, you will understand this is one of the reasons why I chose to leave that position and ultimately that community. But the initial concept of such a program is one I truly supported and would recommend to anyone wishing to explore their own gifts.

We all have different gifts and different ways of saying to the world who we are. The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling they are worthwhile. - Fred Rogers
Through my own participation in the inaugural session of our "God's Gift's" workshop, I was able to not necessarily discover things about myself that I didn't already know, but rather get a sense of affirmation that my own talents and skills and passions were indeed legitimate and God given, not just something that I accidentally stumbled upon over the years. It gave me even more confidence to move on and away. In my personal quest to "make a difference," I have spent many years helping other people to follow their dreams and realize their own potential. I saw things and people and missions that I believed in for the greater good and I wanted to help to make them bigger and more grand than they would otherwise be. Because of this, in one sense, I thought I didn't really have any gifts of my own, just helping other people with their gifts, but then lo and behold I discovered that "Helps" or helping others is a spiritual gift in and of itself. Surprise, surprise..."Helps" turned out to be my number one spiritual gift!
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. - 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
I recently read John C. Maxwell's book, Talent is Never Enough: Discovering the Choices that Will Take You Beyond Your Talent. It is an amazing book that I highly recommend if you are interested in personal development, although I am a big fan of all of Maxwell's work, so my opinion may be biased. In the first chapter (p.17) he tells a story that really stuck with me and I want to relay it here. He says -

Executive coach Joel Garfinkle recounts a story by writer Mark Twain in which a man died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Immediately realizing that Saint Peter was a wise and knowledgeable individual, the man inquired, "Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Tell me who was the greatest general of all time?"

Saint Peter quickly responded, "Oh, that's a simple question. It's that man right over there."

You must be mistaken," responded the man, now very
perplexed. "I knew that man on earth and he was just a common laborer."

"That's right my friend," assured Saint Peter. "He would have been that greatest general of all time, if he had been a general."
Did it stop you in your tracks? It did me when I first read it. Perhaps that is because my interests have been so diverse over the years. When I was younger (in my twenties) I used to sometimes play the "What if..." Game: What if . . . I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing? What if . . . I was really meant to pursue one of those careers on the list? Horrible game - I don't recommend it to anyone, but I think it is par for the course of development in one's twenties. As I entered my thirties and became "more comfortable in my own skin" as they say, I became more confident in simply being who I was created to be. My other top gifts that weave together to form the persona of “Bop” were creative communication, administration, mercy, apostleship, encouragement and faith. I think sometimes the greatest challenge lies in being the best "Bop". . . "BRKM". . . "Barbara". . . simply the best version of me that God created and as far as I know, I'm the only one exactly like me. If I don't become the best version of me, the world may miss out on having what I have been given to offer.
If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes we see the gifts all nicely wrapped with pretty paper and fancy bows and we are afraid to open them. They look too good from the outside, we think. They couldn't possibly be for us, could they?? We are afraid to own the best versions of ourselves and open all of the gifts. The Creator has packed our figurative bags with all that we need to be successful, we just need to accept and open the gifts we have been given and then use them to the best of our abilities to make the world a better place because we were in it.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 4:10-11
Here's to your gifts and mine my friends! If you haven't already, start opening them today...

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most.
We ask ourselves,
‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And when we let our light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson, American author and lecturer


bkclubcare said...

Beautiful (as all your posts are!) I very much liked "If I don't become the best version of me, the world may miss out on having what I have been given to offer." ah, yes!

Awareness said...

Hello there! Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog.....much appreciated! I welcome you to check out some of my earlier writing too.

I have to say that we have much in common. I just read your 36 things list....amazing how many times I nodded! I grew up in Burlington Ontario, about an hour from Buffalo and area.....grew up watching Buffalo TV (Irv Weinstein, Commander Tom? Am I aging myself or do you know them? :)
I skiied in Ellicotville, NY and spent most of my winter weekends there throughout highschool. So, I passed through your area almost every Friday night.

I too love to collect quotes, AND I take many photos of flowers. Your daisy pic is beautiful....I love the strength it portrays. Many of the quotes you have posted I have enjoyed the sidebar one about unique misfit types (that would include me!)

As well, I'm trying to find my way again with respect to my religion and the church I want to become a part of. What I have found since my writing began again (I didn't write for 20 years, and it turned on again about three years ago, hence the blog as an outlet) my desire to consider various components of faith returned too.

I look forward to reading your previous posts and future ones too.

enjoy your evening Bop. take care.


Bop said...

Care -
Yes, so true... but isn't it sometimes the hardest task of all to live into being our true selves?
Here's to finding and opening all of the unique Care shaped-gifts you've been given!

Dana -
Welcome and thanks for visiting! I enjoy your blog very much. You have a great voice and I love all of your great photos too.

So nice to meet a kindred spirit here. It always amazes me how the internet allows for such connections to be made that would otherwise go undiscovered. Yes, I remember Irv Weinstein (isn't that such a funny name?)and the others. I should Google him. I wasn't much of a skier but I know Ellicotville too.

So glad you enjoyed your visit here and liked my quotes too. Hope see you around these parts again sometime soon!