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Spiritual Matters

Make use of the gifts God gave you

September 04, 2013 - When I was in the fourth grade I was taught that I could not sing. My voice was beginning to change and I would usually be somewhere between a soprano and bass often with in the same beat. One day my teacher told me, "Just mouth the words, you can't sing."

How many people have been discouraged from expressing their joy by thoughtless words such as these? I can sing, just not the way she wanted me to at the time. A choir director friend of mines says, "Singing in harmony is just singing a different note than everyone else is singing." Everyone can sing, just as "everybody's beautiful, in their own way!" (Ray Stevens) And, "Every child is born a genius." (Thomas Edison) Many of us have locked our genius away where no one can see it.

Thankfully, in Junior High, Debby asked me to come sing in the 8th grade choir. I told her I couldn't sing, but luckily she wouldn't take no for an answer, "We need a bass." Being a hormonal 14 year old there wasn't much I could do but say yes. A long story shortened, I joined the choir; I stood in the back and mouthed the words because "I couldn't sing." It took a while for Mr. Henry to catch on and the phrase; "Matthew, I can't hear you!" became a regular occurrence.

Eventually, I found my voice. In my 20's, through a series of transformational experiences I gained a healthy self-esteem, I joined a choir in our church along with my wife. I picked up my guitar that I had first learned to play in my teens, signed up for lessons at the community college and have enjoyed many years of playing in the band, in the church and at coffee house "open mics". My life is significantly richer with the gift of music. I may never be a rock star but I'm having fun.

The Apostle Paul tells us, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1Corinthians 12:4-7) The fact that we value some gifts as greater than others, such as being able to put a big round ball through a small hoop, is a part of the human condition. We think we know better than God.

Instead of encouraging young people to find their God given talents and gifts we tend to channel them into what we want for them. Most people are not going to become world class athletes or doctors or lawyers or whatever path our parents put us on. We may become one for their sake or because we think we should or some other reason but, if it is not an expression our natural talent or gift, it will not bring us joy.

Or, we may fail in the attempt; we may feel or think that we are stupid and worthless because we didn't measure up to some arbitrary measure of success; we may believe that we can't sing, or can't dance, or can't fill in the blank, because of some careless words of an authority figure in our past. For whatever reason, many if not most people are not experiencing the joy of life for they are not expressing their innate God given talents and gifts which bring us joyful bliss.

Theologian Jonathan Edwards said, "The ideas or images in men's minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them. It's the beliefs locked into the sub-conscious mind that either advances or blocks creative flow and imaginative ideas." "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right" (Henry Ford) "Follow your bliss." (Joseph Campbell)

Let go and let God's good come forth. Let go of preconceived ideas of what we can or cannot do; let go of preconceived notions of who and what we should be; let God be God in you and follow your bliss. For God is love and love is bliss.

The Rev. Matthew E. Long is senior minister at Peace Unity Community.

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