Thursday, January 20, 2005

God-Given Gifts

“But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
~ I Corinthians 7:7 (RSV)

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been writing this column for a year and a half now. It seems like only yesterday that I ventured outside my comfort zone by asking Joann Kahnt if she would be willing to allow me to write a column in The Prairie Post. I just can’t thank Joann enough for saying yes, because I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the experience so much. Even though it takes a certain amount of time to put the column together, I consider it a privilege to be given this opportunity to express myself.

I’d also like to thank you, the readers, for your interest in my thoughts, feelings, poems and stories. In moments of self-doubt, I sometimes wonder what makes me think that anyone would be interested in my life or the lessons I’ve learned along the way. But then I think about Laura Ingalls Wilder and how she wrote about her family’s life on the prairie. She had an irrepressible urge to share the everyday happenings of her life, and so do I. And even though I don’t know many of you (except for those who receive my column via email), I feel a connection to you because you’ve allowed me to come into your homes week after week and share the ups and downs of my life. For that, I am deeply grateful.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have provided me with so much support and encouragement along this journey. Special thanks to my dad, stepmom, husband, kids and siblings. Also my friends from across the country: Kathi in Mississippi, Vicki in Georgia, Jack & Evelyn in Florida, Kenneth in Oklahoma, Marne, Rumelia and Barbara in Kansas, my godfather Bill in Virginia, Jean in Nevada, Angie in Missouri, Larry in Singapore, Mae and Peggy in Texas and finally, from Council Grove, Kansas, Rebecca, Shirley and Connie (the proprietor of The Cottage House - our favorite bed and breakfast). Your notes, comments and emails have meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

When I first started writing my column, my friend Linda Jernigan sent me the following note of encouragement.

“You’re not an inspiring writer, you’re a writer that is inspired by people and real life subjects that people want to read about, even more so during hard times in the world and our everyday lives. Say ten times everyday, OK! I AM A WRITER!”

When Keen and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, we had to fill out our personal information for the announcement in the paper. I stated that Keen was a student at Washburn Law School, but I went back and forth about how to describe myself. I finally decided to list my occupation as “homemaker”, even though in my heart I wanted to include, “aspiring writer.” That would’ve been a true statement, but since I don’t have any formal training and I’ve never attended a day of college, I just didn’t think I qualified. But little by little I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that I am not only a homemaker, wife, and mother, but I am also a writer. By continuing to share my reflections each week, I’m trying to utilize whatever God-given talents I may have.

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'”
~Erma Bombeck

The truth of the matter is, we all have some natural abilities that God expects us to use. As my sister Peggy’s favorite teacher used to say: “A talent not used is a talent in decay.”

It reminds me of the story in the Bible about the master who gave his servants some talents. One received ten talents, one five and the other received one. The servant with the one talent feared what would happen if he lost or squandered his talent, so he “played it safe” and buried it.

But that did not please his master. In fact, I get the feeling that his master would have preferred to see the servant try and fail, than to never try at all. He said, “At least you could have invested it and earned interest!” Then he took the talent away and gave it to the man with ten talents. (Matthew 25:28) So If God has given you talents, He wants you to do something with them! He wants you to use them!

“For out of His fullness (abundance) we all received . . . one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped upon gift] . . .”
~ John 1:16

In his best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Author Rick Warren writes:

"God shaped you for a purpose and He expects you to make the most of what you've been given. Focus on the talents He's given you. When you attempt to serve God in ways you weren't meant to, it feels like a square peg in a round hole. It leaves you feeling frustrated and produces limited results. It's a waste of your time, energy and talent....Discover your shape, learn to accept it and then develop it to its full potential. Take a long look at what you're good at and what you're not good at. Ask yourself, ‘When do I feel most alive? What do I most enjoy doing? What am I doing when I lose track of time? Am I an extrovert or an introvert? Do I like working alone or in a group? What am I passionate about?’"

That’s such good advice. It’s been said that if you do something you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s not to say that following your dreams won’t involve hard work, because it will. But when you’re working toward a goal that will allow you to fulfill your deepest passion, then it’s worth whatever it takes to get there.

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
~ Emile Zola (1840-1902)

The three things I am most passionate about are God, my family and writing; I need little else to make me happy. And even though my particular style of writing may not appeal to everyone, that’s all right, because I can’t write to please this person or that person – I have to write in the style that’s most natural to me. I have to take what’s in my heart and share it, like a painter who expresses himself on canvas. God doesn’t want me to try to be like anybody else, He just wants me to be the best “me” that I can be. Anything less would seem empty and phony.

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said that if you give a man six lines he’ll have you fit for hanging by the end of the day. That’s the calculated risk every writer takes. With every stroke of the pen, we create fresh opportunities for our critics. But as I stated in an earlier column, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Because I have no other choice
What people think, I cannot care
For it’s the nature of the poet
To want and need to share.

~ The Nature of the Poet, by Eileen Umbehr

The movie Chariots of Fire depicted the true story of Eric Liddle and Harold Abrahams who overcame many obstacles to run for the gold in the 1924 Olympics. In one portion of the movie, Eric’s sister chastised him for running in the Olympics when there were lost souls to be saved and his missionary needed him in China. When she asked him how he could justify it he replied, "I must run, because when I run, I feel His pleasure."

That’s how I feel about writing. I must write – I’m compelled to write – because that’s when I feel like I’m doing what God put me on this earth to do. When I’m not working on my book or my column, then I’m writing a poem or a letter to a friend. If left to my own devices, I will always choose to write.

When Toby Keith was interviewed about the song titled “The Angry American”, he said, “When you write something, you never know how many legs it’s gonna grow or how many branches or people you’re going to affect.”

“But words are things and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew upon a thought,
Produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."

~ Lord Byron, English poet, 1819

This past week my column grew a few more “branches” when our son Josh completed a web page or “blog” (short for web log) which contains all my past Reflections columns, complete with pictures. I told Josh that I was very comfortable just writing for the readers of The Prairie Post, but since technology has made it possible for me to expand my audience, I guess it’s time for me to leave my comfort zone once again.

If you’d like to check out my page on the internet, you can go to

The following poem was written by Irene Toburen of Waterville, Kansas, who graciously granted me permission to share it.

A Gift
By Irene Toburen

What have you brought to the table today?
The table of hope, not despair,
We each have been given a special gift,
That with others we may share.

It may be a gift of happiness,
Or one with a cheery smile,
You may just gladden a heart today.
Making someone's life seem worthwhile.

Maybe a pat on a small child's head,
Or a story to a little child told,
Take a walk in another's shoes,
Someone who is alone or old.

Then maybe you will understand,
The problems some others face,
And you'll know how a word of hope and a smile,
Could help you to show God's grace.

The sunshine of hope will beam brighter,
When we someone's spirits lift,
And we share in another's happiness,
When we share our God-given gift.

“Be sure to carry out the work the Lord gave you.”
~ Colossians 4:17 (NLT)