“You sound like Cat Stevens,” my friend Linda told me. I was stunned. Cat Stevens had one of the smoothest, sweetest folk/rock ‘n’ roll voices going. No one had ever told me I had a good singing voice before, much less compare me to someone as talented as Cat Stevens!
I began singing Cat Stevens songs, constantly, especially around Linda. Finally, during a moving rendition of “Moonshadow,” Linda gave me a sharp look and said, “Why are you always singing so loud?”
I stopped mid-note and stared at her. This was not the affirmation I sought.
“Um, you told me I sounded like Cat Stevens,” I said.
“Not your singing voice.” She laughed and shook her head. “Your speaking voice.”
How many of us spend valuable time dreaming and wishing we were somebody other than who we are? All the while missing who and what we really are.
Philosopher and theologian Apostle Paul addressed this very question in chapter 12 to his letter to the Corinthians.
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TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
1 Corinthians 12:1-26
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Esther 4:1-7:10: The story of Esther never mentions God. Yet God’s actions are written in between every line of this fantastic story. Esther’s God given beauty places her in the court of King Xerxes. Mordecai is an exile in Susa because God allowed the Jews to be conquered. This situation allows Mordecai to overhear a plot to assassinate Xerxes. His information saves the king’s life. All of this God uses to thwart a plan by one of Xerxes’ court members to exterminate the Jews. All the while God seems hidden.
My question is this: has God seemed hidden between the lines of your story? His name may not be written on each page, but God is still the author and finisher of your life.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
There’s one reason my dream of being the next Cat Stevens died. I can’t sing. Not a note. Discovering that truth was very disappointing. Like many in my generation, I dreamed of challenging “the man” and changing “the establishment” by writing daring lyrics and becoming the next Bob Dylan or Neal Young. But I couldn’t even sing as well as they. Finally I gave up playing guitar also because I am rhythmically impaired. I can’t chew and chew gum at the same time.
So much for changing the world.
I wrote myself off. Then, in college, I had to take a speech class.
After my first speech my instructor asked me, “Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a great speaking voice? You should go into radio,” she continued.
Suddenly my friend Linda’s Cat Stevens remark took on new meaning. I have since learned God gave me a gift, just not one I at first wanted or understood. I was ignorant about how God wanted to use me. Apparently I’m not alone.
“I don’t want you to be ignorant” about spiritual gifts Paul wrote.
He then goes on to describe how God gifts each of us equally–though equal means value to God and his work not similarity–and gifts each of us uniquely.
But what Paul wants them (us) to focus on is the Gift-giver not the gift. Singing, speaking, healing, prophecy, tongues, leadership are just tools. The Giver of gifts is the key. No carpenter in his right mind points out and brags about his hammer.
Paul’s friend’s in Corinth seemed to be arguing over their version of who got to be Cat Stevens. No one wanted to be the dorky radio announcer. Everyone wanted to speak in tongues; no one wanted the gift of helps. This bickering about who had the coolest hammer, so to speak, divided them, as it does us today.
To make it worse, when we yearn for what gifts God has given others, we miss what God gave us to be and do. This makes us ineffective in our work, leads us to believe we are insignificant in our world, and convinces us God is unfair. God made no mistake in how he created you or me, though we may be mistaken about his design in us.
I don’t know if I sound like Cat Stevens. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m thankful for who I am and what God gave me to do: communicate–with my voice and life–how God is writing his story of grace and love in our world. I am no longer jealous or disappointed but rather humbled to be of any use to God at all.
- What do these for passages share in common?
- Where do you see God between the lines of your story?
- What has God gifted you with?
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