(Susan's post was missing yesterday because she was up all night nursing a feverish grandson. She'll be back next week!)
I love listening to audio books! While doing so I can do hours of cleaning or ironing and never notice. Mostly I listen while driving though. The latest book I picked up from the library is Prophet of Purpose by Jeffrey L. Sheler; the life story of Rick Warren.
It was several years ago that I read Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life , which deeply impacted me, so I was intrigued by a chance to know more about him. The book is inspiring and well written. Although it is 12 hours long, I am almost finished--and my ironing is up to date.
On the way home from work on Thursday, I listened to the account in the book, of an incident I remembered: that of Brian Nichols taking Ashley Smith hostage in 2005.
During the seven hours she was held captive by Nichols (who had murdered 4 people,) she built a rapport with him and eventually asked if she could go to her bedroom and get a book. The book was The Purpose Driven Life, and she asked if she could read it. When he said yes, she turned to the page that was bookmarked and began to read; she was on day 32 of the 40 days of daily readings. Suddenly Nichols said, "Stop, read that again."
The passage was entitled, Using What God Gave You. Smith read it to him again:
Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be,
Romans 12:5 (Msg)
What you are is God's gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God.
God deserves your best.
He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given. He doesn't want you to worry about or covet abilities you don't have. Instead he wants you to focus on talents he has given you to use.
When you attempt to serve God in ways you're not shaped to serve, it feels like forcing a square peg into a round hole. It's frustrating and produces limited results. It also wastes your time, your talent, and your energy. The best use of your life is to serve God out of your shape. To do this you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential.
Nichols asked Smith what she thought God's purpose for his life might be. She said that maybe he was meant to minister to people in prison. Nichols eventually decided he didn't want to hurt any more people and surrendered peacefully to the police.
When I got home from work, I couldn't wait to find my copy of The Purpose Driven Life. On the third bookshelf I looked on, there it was. I opened it to the reading for day 32, and it had a folded up piece of paper marking it, with the words to a song entitled, The Summons.
I shared the story during a devotion that I led on Friday morning and added a reading from Little House on the Freeway by Tim Kimmel (pages 131-134.) He wrote about being a theological student, and his professor's request to the class to write down on a 3 x 5 index card, their three greatest weaknesses. The only problem most of the class had, was choosing which weaknesses to write down.
Then he turned to them and told them that his next question would be the most important question they would answer, and that their ability to answer it, would indicate the future success of their ministry. He asked them to write on the other side of the card--their three greatest strengths. The seminarians groaned and suffered paralysis of the writing hand, but eventually they managed to write down their strengths. The professor told them that strengths as well as callings, are to be stewarded.
Rick Warren talks about the stewardship of influence and affluence.
We closed our devotions by passing around a sheet of paper on which the words to a song called, The Summons were printed. Each of us read a line out loud and passed it on until we were done; and then we prayed.
How about you? Is God calling you to use strengths, influence, or affluence for him--perhaps in a different way than you've considered to this point?
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.