Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gifts from God

I'm in a group Bible study with a few friends. The study we've chosen is Beth Moore's "A Woman's Heart - God's Dwelling Place". I traveled on Beth's worship team (led by Travis Cottrell) for 5 years right before auditioning for American Idol . I've done several of her studies but never her very first one. It is a study relating the Old Testament tabernacle that God dwelled in to our very own hearts. It has been updated with new material and videos and I highly recommend it!

A few hours ago I completed the homework for week 3, day 4 which focused on a man named Bezalel (Exodus 31:1-11). I was struck by how God gifted him with the skill of artistic design and how God used that gift to build His dwelling place. It got me thinking about how He had gifted me.

Most people know me as a singer and it is a gift I am very thankful for. As a little child I would lock myself in the bathroom, crank up my Whitney Houston cassette tapes (yes, I'm old), use my curling iron as a microphone, and pretend to be a singer on stage before thousands of screaming fans. I don't ever remember wanting to be anything else when I grew up. (Thank you Jesus for dreams coming true!!!)

But another memory came to mind as I meditated on the passages of scripture in my Bible study lesson today. I was in 4th grade at a school assembly sitting all the way in the back of the auditorium at a table with my class. The purpose of the assembly was to announce the winners of the school-wide writing contest. I had submitted a poem that if memory serves me correctly, had something to do with rainbows and flowers. As the winners for each grade were announced I remember feeling a twinge of disappointment when my name never came up during the 4th grade finalists. I had spent a lot of time working on that poem. I thought I'd at least land a 3rd place prize. Then the principal announced that there were 3 winners in the overall category. These winners were selected based solely on the merit of the entry, NOT the grade the contestants were in. I didn't even think twice about this prize. Surely it would go to 5th and 6th graders. After all, they were smarter and had a wider vocabulary. Sure enough, as the winners of 3rd and 2nd place were announced, I recognized them to be upper classmen. The principal continued, "I'd like to read the poem the committee has selected for the overall 1st place prize." As Mr. Boone's voice bellowed out across the auditorium my face got flush and my breath quickened. HE WAS READING MY POEM!!! He concluded with "Please give a round of applause to 1st place winner, from Mrs. Johnston's 4th grade class, Mandisa Hundley!" The whole auditorium stood and applauded as Mrs. Johnston motioned for me to go forward. I walked forward all the way from the back of the auditorium soaking up the applause, and received my big blue ribbon (that I'm sure my mom has to this day). I was known as the singer. Not the smart one. Maybe there was more to me after all! That memory is so vivid for me, like it happened yesterday.

After that day I would sit in my room creating stories of fantasy and wonder. My whole life I'd always remembered pretending to be a star in the bathroom. How had this childhood memory of enjoying writing been lost? I can now remember people showering me with compliments when I would write them a letter or card. And in English class I would always dread reading Shakespeare but love the writing assignments.

And today? Well, yes, I am a singer by profession but you know what? I'm an author too! It hadn't even dawned on me as I wrote my first book "Idoleyes - My New Perspective on Faith, Fat, and Fame"? And in a few minutes I'll continue writing 5 devotionals to be part of the next Women of Faith Devotional book.

My favorite Psalm is Psalm 139. When I read it I feel that I am intimately known by my Father. Verse 13 says, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb". I believe (and scripture backs up) that God took great care in creating us. Not only did He plan how we would look, He also mapped out our personality and equipped us with gifts and skills we would use for His glory. Furthermore, when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, also depositing spiritual gifts within us (1 Corinthians 12).

When you think about yourself as a child, how do you think God gifted you? Do you see those gifts still at work in your life today? If not, pray about how God may want you to use those gifts.

If you are a parent or have children in your life, what gifts do you see at work in your children? How can you encourage your child in those gifts?

If you are a Christian, what gifts do see the Holy Spirit producing? Are you using those gifts to build the Body of Christ?

If you are confused as to how God has gifted you I recommend reading "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren.

It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ,...he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG)