My daughter sat entranced, staring at the computer screen, carefully copying the image onto her paper with a crayon. I beamed with pride thinking, “This child is brilliant”. She was 4-years-old and obsessed with learning about skeletons, so I had pulled up a human skeletal system chart on the computer, and she was carefully drawing her own version and trying to copy down the words “metacarpal” and “scapula”. I was just so sure that she was on her way to becoming a brilliant doctor who would change the world by discovering the cure for some impossible to cure disease, or a skilled surgeon saving lives everyday. She has since lost her love of the human skeletal system (it actually really grosses her out now) and replaced it with a love for horses and drawing.
I can't help sometimes but to fantasize about each of my daughters' potential for the future. I think we moms do this from the very beginning. We watch them as they grow each year and learn new skills thinking, “He’s got a good arm for a 2-year-old! Look out NFL! Here comes my boy!” or, “Listen to her sing! She’s going to be famous for sure.”
As we dream of who they will become, we sometimes accidentally, “live vicariously” through our children. We remember what it was like to be young and have our whole lives ahead of us, and now, as we look around, we realize - this is it. This is our life and what we are doing with it. These people, this job, this house, this way of doing life. This is it. For some of you, that thought brings deep joy and satisfaction. For others, you may be shaking your head and wondering what happened to all of your plans and dreams.
We have all celebrated another Easter Sunday with all of it's pastel-colored traditions and ceremonies. In many ways, I always find myself looking around on Easter Sunday night saying, "Now what?" After hearing a passionate discourse on the marvelous work and resurrection of Jesus, I kind of feel a let-down. Like, are we really supposed to go back to normal life after all we have witnessed today? I'm wondering if the disciples felt this way after Jesus ascended. Did they too look at each other and ask, "Now what?"
In this final post on stewardship, I want to talk to you, my Friend, about stewarding your gifts and calling. “What gifts and calling?” You may be asking. Oh, you have both, Dear One. It might be hiding underneath the piles of laundry and the mountains of dirty diapers-but it is there. Perhaps your first thought when someone mentions your gifts is, “Oh, I don’t have any gifts, I just __________________” Fill in the blank with whatever it is you are doing that you think is not so impressive. Many of us falsely believe that we don’t have skills, abilities or a calling in this world that has any significance.
But, the Bible tells a different story than the false one we believe about ourselves. Let’s look at what it says:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 25:19-20
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior; not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5
Whew! I don’t think we really understand how much work those few verses gives us to do, or how wonderful it is to be called to do this work. Let’s take a closer look at what all these verses entail.
First, we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. What does that mean exactly? Well, the word workmanship means “the art or skill of a workman: the product or result of labor and skill; the quality of a thing made”. So when the Bible talks about being God’s workmanship, it means we are his work of art. What is the job of art? It is created to express a truth about the artist and to draw attention to what it is the artist wants to communicate. So as God’s work of art, what are we created to do? Express truth about who God is to those around us and draw their attention to the message he is communicating. That takes a lot of work. It means we have to slow down our busy lives and pay attention to people. We must have their ear if we are going to express truth about God and communicate his message. To get someone’s attention it usually helps to listen to them first. That takes time, which is why stewarding our time is so very important. If we don’t have time for people, then we will miss opportunities to express God to them.
We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works. What does that entail? Through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we are new creations. The old has passed away. Therefore, we are created in Him now able to do good things in our new nature that we were unable to do in our old sinful state. This has been God’s plan since the beginning. God prepared good works for us to do and then provided the forgiveness, grace and sanctification we needed in order to be able to do those good works. We get this backwards often. We sometimes think the good works are what bring forgiveness, but that’s the wrong order. The forgiveness of sin brings the desire to do the good work prepared for us. I’m so glad I have good work to do! I couldn’t be excited about it had God not first saved me through Jesus’ good work. Good works is one way we worship.
The next few verses tell us that we are to be witnesses of Christ to the world. This is the greatest work that every believer has to do. And it begins in Jerusalem. What does that mean? Do we need to all hop on a plane to the Holy Land? No. It means we start our work at home. Our family is who we first witness to. This is wonderful! We are already in place to fulfill the first part of the Great Commission to our own sweet babies. We are to express the truth of who God is and what he has done through Jesus to our family as we serve them, meet their physical needs for food, clothing and affection. Then, we bear witness to our community (Judea) meeting the needs of our neighbors and co-workers. Then to those we would never associate with (Samaria). These are those around us that we don’t necessarily rub elbows with if we can help it. Maybe it is the poor, homeless, orphans, those who are vulnerable to being exploited , or are marginalized because of their ethnicity, economic status, or beliefs. Yes, we are called to serve and love all people groups. Then we go to the ends of the earth. Maybe that does involve hopping on a plane and heading to a foreign country. Maybe that involves giving money or raising support for those that are already there.
Then, there is a whole verse about older women teaching younger women some stuff. I have a head start on this because God dropped four little women into my lap as daughters to teach and raise into mature women. It’s easier to read that verse and think, “Oh, there should be an older woman somewhere willing to teach me.” Yes. There should be. And there is also a younger woman who needs you to teach her. Find both of those women. Be discipled and make a disciple.
Wow. That’s a lot of people and a lot of work. We are not going to get it all done if we do not learn to be good stewards of our resources. That means we must steward our time, money, energy and gifts carefully. We cannot waste it on self-indulgence and sin. What does this look like for the stay-at-home mom, or the part-time working mom, or the full-time teaching mom, or the single mom working two jobs, or the mom who has it all figured out, or the mom who can’t find her car keys let alone her purpose in life?
It looks like this.
We show up. We show up in our kids’ lives with the love of God filling our hearts and grace filling our words. We show up when we have an abundance of energy and when we are crawling under the weight of depression and exhaustion. We show up when we know what we are doing and when we don't have a clue-trusting God with what we don't know.
We don’t show up because we are tough mother’s who are gutting it out. We show up because “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). We show up because we are his workmanship, his art, his chosen messenger of hope in a world that is quickly self-destructing. We show up because people who are not our biological children need a mother-figure to step in and share God's love as only a mother can. It’s not because we have it all figured out, or because we somehow have managed to be untouched by sin. It is because God has it figured out, and Jesus saved us when we were drowning in our own sin and selfishness. This is why we show up for our families, our communities, our neighbors and our world-because Jesus showed up and fulfilled his mission all the way to the cross and the resurrection! "Now what?" we may ask. Now, he has called us to be on mission with him, and the same spirit that raised him from the dead lives inside of you and me (Romans 8:11)- that blows my mind!
The everyday mundane of paying bills, getting kids to school on time, finding everyone's missing socks and so many other things can suck the energy out of a soul quick. But, I see the hand of God at work, taking typical, ordinary life and making it into something new and beautiful. It makes my heart beat faster, and my eyes burn with tears of joy. I can see the Spirit of God, weaving his way through the small moments of life, faithfully moving us towards himself and calling us to worship him with our whole selves. We are no longer buried by the ordinary work of this life, but rather we are transformed by the extraordinary work of Christ. We are his. Completely. Wholly. His daughters, created in His image, paid for by the sinless blood of his Son. Called to walk with him, daily. To move among the brokenness of this world, as his witnesses, speaking the truth of his Word that makes all things new and right again. It is marvelous. Even as I write this, I am in awe of him. I have to live out his purposes and plans because nothing else will fill me to the brim like he does. I can't not be on mission with him. It doesn't sit well with my spirit.
Each of us has been created with abilities, personalities and passions intentionally. It’s not an accident that you love to paint, write, sing, craft, organize, teach, observe, heal, or whatever it is that you love to do. Some of you are very gifted and passionate about arguing your point. How is that a gift and a calling? Because there are those who need someone to speak for them. To argue and advocate on their behalf. They need you and your passion for justice, fairness and truth to help them discover where true freedom can be found.
I love what Emily Freeman says in her book “A Million Little Ways”:
Your childhood dream delights God. I don’t say that because every secret dream will come true. But having a dream is evidence of a person who is fully alive. Having a dream is a reflection of the image of God.”
The daughter I mentioned above is still as tenacious about learning now as she was in that story seven years ago. I am aware that God has created my daughter with this personality, dreams, desires and a whole lot of determination for a purpose that he had planned before she was even born. So, I smile and listen as she spouts off random facts that I really could not care less about, because I truly believe she is called according to God’s purpose. What's more, I get to do the good work of showing up, listening to her heart and guiding her in the right direction.
At the same time, I cannot ignore the longings in my own heart, though I can’t always see God's purposes as clearly for myself as I can for my children. I talked for years about writing a blog before I actually did it. I was afraid that I would put my whole heart out in the blog world, and it would be laughed at, trampled on, or worse, ignored and useless. And so I continued to neglect the fire that was in my belly every time I sat down to write in my journal, hoping it would burn out and die. I continued to laugh at myself for writing in my head while I shampooed my hair. I kept telling myself that there are so many talented writers out there, I really have nothing to say or contribute. For awhile, I convinced myself that I could ignore the desire to write. But, God doesn’t let us ignore his call for long. The Holy Spirit kept nudging me, whispering for me to “write that down”. So I have journals full of writing from over the years. Yet, it wasn’t until my husband handed me his laptop and said, “Here. This is your website. It’s ready for your first article.” Gulp…that I knew it was time for me to share. There were no more excuses and I was afraid (still am BTW).
I tell you all of this about me because I want you to think deeply for a moment. What is it that God is calling you to do? How has he gifted you for the sake of helping others? Who has he put around you that needs to see a true expression of the God who loves them so much? Where can you live out your gifting? When is the right time to finally share as only you can?
We are all called and gifted (let 1 Corinthians 12 rock your world for a bit). You are not an exception. Don’t think that you can slide by and do nothing with what you’ve been given. Stop comparing your gift with someone else’s gift. God created you, as you are, to fulfill his purpose and it may not look the same as hers-so what? You do you and don’t worry about her and what she’s doing. She is free to do what she is created to do and you are free to do what you have been created to do. You are called to live out God’s mission in this world as you, created new in Christ Jesus, in the image of God, to express the truth of God in a world that desperately needs him. You are a messenger. If you think you can run and hide from the work God has for you to do, I recommend spending some time reading the book of Jonah. Your choice is to run from God’s mission, or obey.
What will you do?
What fears are keeping you hidden? What dreams have you ignored or run away from? What excuses keep you from declaring the good things God is doing in your heart? Can you see the new things that God is doing in and around you? Can you see how He desires for you to love Him in a way that makes Him known? Maybe he’s calling you to go around the world or to stay home and teach and train your own tribe. Maybe he is simply calling you to talk to that other mom at your kid’s school and share God's love with her. But don’t think for a moment that he’s not calling you somewhere to do something for his kingdom.
My prayer for you and me today is that we will steward all the gifts God has given us for his purpose and mission in this world. May we be disciples who make disciples. May we find ourselves incapable of hiding. May we become salt, adding the flavor of grace and hope to people within our sphere of influence. May our lives be a canvas where the Good News of Jesus Christ will be seen by everyone who looks our way. I pray that today the perfect love of God would cast out all fear. May we, by the grace of God, go…may we go out into the world and make art, or food, or clothes. May we go educate our children, or a room full of someone else’s. May we go plant a garden that nourishes physical bodies, or plant a church that nourishes the soul. May we go paint a wall, design a spreadsheet, argue our client’s case or treat our patients in such a way that the truth of who God is and what he has done will be heard and seen by all. Wherever we go, whether it's to Uganda, or to WalMart, let’s go with the confidence that we know who we are, we know what we are supposed to do, and that all of it will bring good to others, joy to our hearts and glory to our good and faithful Father!
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15