:: 05/20/2015 - 7:53am ::

Years ago, I became aware of a problem in our town—underage drinking. Filled with emotion (and without prayer), I decided to do something about it. Surely all teenagers needed was a fun and safe environment, especially on prom night.

So I quickly ran an ad in the paper to spearhead a new group to organize an alcohol-free party for high school students. Little did I know how much was involved in planning such an event. It didn’t take long to see I was a fish out of water and in deep trouble.

Problems persisted until I finally gave up the project, donated the money to a similar organization, and breathed a sigh of relief. Planning a party for hundreds of teenagers wasn’t something I was gifted to do. It didn’t match any of the talents or abilities I had at the time.

Although embarrassing, the whole thing taught me valuable lessons. First, I must pray and seek God’s direction. Second, I must pay attention to my gifts and talents; God gave them to me for a reason.

Trying new things is not necessarily wrong, but if I seek God’s will, He will guide me and equip me for something new.

Sheila Gosney lives in Monroe City, Missouri. She is a freelance writer whose passion is educating and inspiring believers for the daily mission of God’s will.

:: 05/18/2015 - 9:14am ::

You may have heard the expression “You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.” I’ve watched children try to do it with puzzle pieces. One piece wouldn’t fit in a space originally designed for another. Either the piece was shaped so differently that it would not fit in the space or there were gaps left because it did not completely fill it.

I have grown to believe the same could be true of us and how we serve the Lord. First Corinthians 12 reminds us that we are given spiritual gifts “for the common good.” When I try to be something I’m not, it can be frustrating because I’m not serving out of my giftedness. I’m like the square peg in a round hole. Does it mean I am a complete misfit? No, but it does mean I am uniquely designed to serve in the capacity for which God has shaped me. When I serve out of my giftedness and be who God created me to be, then and only then can I (and the rest of the body of Christ) be filled.

Melanie Van Laningham lives in Alabama, where she seeks to serve Christ in the world as God has gifted her.

:: 05/13/2015 - 7:24am ::

I grew up in a Christian home where using your gifts and talents for the Lord was a natural expression of faith. My parents taught me without realizing it.

My mother’s creative talents were always seen at church, whether she sewed a banner for the wall or taught crafts at Vacation Bible School. She has never retired from serving and can be found in her church’s shoe box ministry room, busily working alongside other women and men.

My father has blessed me as I’ve witnessed him using his gifts and talents to serve the Lord. Even in his 70s, he looks for carpentry jobs to help people or serve in his church. Just a few months ago, he worked with a group of men to refurbish the church’s fellowship hall.

Watching my parents was a “living lesson” that taught me to serve God with my gifts and talents. Just a few days ago, someone approached me about an impromptu gathering that needed some decorating flair. My answer was yes, of course.

Remember every time we serve the Lord with our gifts and talents, an entire generation learns from our obedience.

Sheila Gosney lives in Monroe City, Missouri. She is a freelance writer whose passion is educating and inspiring believers for the daily mission of God’s will.

:: 05/11/2015 - 10:52am ::

I teach a small group of children on Sunday nights for an international congregation I have grown to love. It’s one of those situations that naturally unfolded. The children didn’t have a teacher, and I wanted their parents to have the opportunity to experience Christian fellowship in their heart language. I simply took the initiative and allowed God to do the rest.

I may never know how God is using that hour of the week I have with those children, but if He has equipped me to serve, I can trust the results to Him. The same is true when I disciple another believer in her faith or do other things I am gifted in and passionate about. Although I am far from being perfect in the things I do, God continues to provide great joy in serving Him and operating out of my giftedness.

Melanie Van Laningham lives in Alabama, where she seeks to serve Christ in her local church and the world through her giftedness.

:: 05/06/2015 - 10:11am ::

Years ago, I sat in church wistfully watching those who had excellent voices. Whether it was a solo or a group performance, I secretly yearned to be able to sing.

I’m not sure why I desired such a thing; I didn’t like being in front of people. But I did love music.

Later in adulthood, God began showing me what gifts and talents are really for—to lift up the body of Christ and edify each other. They are never things to be envied.

When I accepted the fact that I didn’t have a singing voice, God started showing me what my gifts were. I am creative. I have a passion for children and love working in children’s ministries. God gave me a gift with Christian poetry, which allows me to bless others when they are hurting.

Everyone has something he or she is good at, a talent someone else doesn’t have. But that’s what makes us need each other. That’s what helps us glorify God together in unity.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Cor. 12:4–6 NIV).

Sheila Gosney lives in Monroe City, Missouri. She is a freelance writer whose passion is educating and inspiring believers for the daily mission of God’s will.

:: 05/04/2015 - 7:31am ::

The subtle reminders of who I am, or rather who I am not, are hard to escape. Do I avoid places so I’m not reminded of my singleness or childlessness? Do I pretend my hearing loss does not exist? In my struggle on the journey to accept who I am rather than who I wish I were, I am reminded comparison can breed discontent. Keeping my eyes on the gifts I don’t have rather than focusing on the Giver of good gifts can rob me of recognizing and using the gifts God has given me.

My stage in life as a single woman without children is a gift, no matter how long the season may last! Rather than wanting to find out where the gift exchange line with God begins, I want and am called to intentionally use those gifts. I can accept how my Maker has created me and realize I am just as fearfully and wonderfully made as the person without any disabilities, or I can complain. Accepting who I am puts me in a position to intentionally serve the Lord just as I am.

Melanie Van Laningham lives in Alabama, where she seeks to serve Christ in the world with the gifts she has been given.

:: 04/29/2015 - 8:34am ::

God was definitely demanding my attention. First, my Sunday School lesson focused on God’s commandment to “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8 KJV). My teacher explained that we could substitute another day for the holy rest if circumstances made it impossible on Sunday. We had a lively discussion and some nervous laughter as we all admitted that a day of rest in our busy lives was rare.

Then, I received a gift in the mail. A friend sent me a copy of Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6 about the importance of observing Sabbath rest. He lovingly explains the reason for the Sabbath and encourages his readers to make it a regular part of their week.

My devotional reading the next morning? You guessed it—all about why I should “keep” the Sabbath. OK, God. I’m listening.

Sabbath rest, whenever we observe it during the week, is a different experience for each person. I’m convinced, however, that God will lead me through this change just as He has so many times before.

Are you experiencing and observing Sabbath rest? Study and pray to know what that will mean in your life and let’s decide to honor God by remembering the Sabbath.

Sammie Jo Barstow lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is determined to follow God in finding Sabbath rest.

:: 04/27/2015 - 11:34am ::

I didn’t think much about people living in nursing homes until my mother-in-law moved into one.

The church did the annual caroling and I took my students to sing and give out handmade cards. Our once-or-twice-a-year trip fit well with my busy schedule.

Sadly, that was it.

The Lord used Carole, my mother-in-law, to get me to pay attention to what goes on in nursing homes. Good things happen. Activity directors plan engaging programs. Family and friends visit.

But not everyone has relatives nearby. Last December, as my husband and I were visiting Carole on Christmas Day, I started wondering how many of her neighbors would have no visitors.

Inspired, I began Wrapped in Love, a ministry to nursing home residents. All year long, I will be crocheting scarves, hats, and maybe lap robes. My goal is to fill baskets with cozy gifts and visit the nursing home on Christmas Day. I desire to spread Christmas cheer by letting residents choose a gift and receive a hug and a smile. Family and friends have been invited and challenged to join me.

Seniors are now intentionally on my mind.

Angie Quantrell writes from her home in Washington State.

:: 04/22/2015 - 7:22am ::

It’s easy to change, right? I change shoes to go shopping. I change how I arrange the furniture. I change my mind about which TV show is my favorite.

But change my behavior? Now that’s another story. That’s much more difficult. To change from eating pancakes and bacon for breakfast to drinking a healthy smoothie takes some resolve. To change from gossiping about my friend to stuffing back those words requires a change in attitude as well as action.

I’m not sure about the scientific evidence, but I’ve read that it takes 60 days to change a habit. That’s when I wake in the morning wanting a healthy smoothie for breakfast instead of pancakes!

What changes do you need to make? My list would be a mile long. Let’s choose one habit to focus on for 60 days and make a positive change.

Will you accept the challenge? One change in 60 days. Ready, set, go!

Sammie Jo Barstow lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and really does have a smoothie for breakfast occasionally.

:: 04/20/2015 - 7:55am ::

Old habits die hard.

It’s true. Once an action is a habit, it is extremely difficult to change the targeted behavior. I imagine that is why I think chocolate should come after every meal and I struggle with eating too much. My habit is to clean my plate. I don’t want to waste food. There are starving children all over the world.

I wish I had the habits of too much exercise and lack of interest in food. But I don’t. The result of my habit is a daily battle for good choices in eating and exercising.

Overeating, smoking, drinking, gossiping, and many other negative habits may require intensive behavior modification. These things are tied to our sinful human nature. I would venture a guess that successful change and breaking bad habits comes only through faith.

Not faith in self and the ability to make necessary changes in behavior, but faith in the Almighty God. He is the only One Who can strengthen us and keep us on the path to change. He alone can transform us.

Angie Quantrell writes from her home in Washington State.

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