"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up," Ephesians 4:11. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them." 1 Corinthians 12:4 "For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away." Matthew 25:14-15.
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well." Martin Luther King Jr.
Life is what you make; so they tell us. Just how does this happen? I mean, how do we make life be what we want it to be? In my opinion we all have greatness within us. However, we don't all rise to the level of greatness. Many are fortunate to achieve mediocrity. Sometimes it is easier to live vicariously through the lives of others than to put the effort into carving a meaningful existence for ourselves. You can agree or disagree, but let's continue.
Years ago, there was a television game show called, "What's My Line?" On this show, a blind-folded celebrity panel questioned members of the public to try and guess their jobs. Many of the contestants were celebrities themselves and if they did not disguise their voice, they would be easily recognized. Then there were those who were not so famous, but whose occupation was so well known that they were careful in their responses so as to make it a little difficult for the panel to guess.
This show offered a glimpse into the lives of the participants; and in many cases confirmed what was written or spoken about some of them. Hence, we got a short view of their story (metaphor for life).
We all have a story; irrespective of planning. Many folks fly by the seat of their pants. In other words, they go where the wind blows, and then wonder why life feels empty. We have all heard of "show and tell." Young children are still asked by their teachers to bring an object from home that they can show to the class. By showing something that is meaningful and telling why it is significant, personal insight is gained about the presenter, further endearing him/her to the class. Writers have a technique that enhances storytelling. It is the classic "show, don't tell" rule of writing. A story is more intriguing when you show the planned actions that take place in the story. The actions support the plot, and one is able to get to the heart of the story.
Our actions tell our story; each moment we are living, with or without our acknowledgment, our story is being played out. It makes sense that we all want to live our best life. However, I am not sure we know what this means or how to achieve it. Many believe, rather falsely based on the evidence, that having every material thing they desire will make one complete. Or that you have to a great job to be important. Not so. FYI, money evaporates in the hands of the unwise or can be stolen; material things satisfy temporarily, and yes many will forget that you ever existed; no job lasts forever. But, a legacy lives on. Your legacy will be the story you live out in front of others. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16. This is the path to a gratifying life.
In the parable noted above, the man returns from his trip and finds that the two servants who received five and two talents respectively, had doubled their talents. The servant who had received one talent buried it, and when the master inquired, he blamed the master for his failure to put the talent to good use and this, he reasoned, was why he had not gained anything for the master. He was severely punished. The other two faithful servants were rewarded by the master. We, too, are accountable for what we do with this life that God has given us. Like the unfaithful servant, we may feel that we have not been given much and so we sit on our hands or elsewhere and make excuses for why we can't do anything. Or maybe we are too afraid to venture out. This did not pass muster in the parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning) and neither will it make the cut now.
Breathe. We are in good company. Even Moses tried to talk his way out of carrying out God's plan for him. He claimed that he had a speech impediment. Exodus 4:10 says that when God asked Moses to speak for Him, he came up with the excuse that he was "slow of speech and tongue." Imagine that, telling the creator of your entire being (mind, body, and soul) that you are impaired! Must have been quite a shock to his creator! Of course, I am being facetious. This excuse did not work for Moses either. In a nut shell, there is no excuse for not living your life to be the example that you were born to be.
We all have different gifts that we have been blessed with! (Romans 12:6-8). Don't all react with amazement. I am not talking about some hidden ability of virtuoso status. Although this is possible (but, I think you would know this by now). I digress. Simply put, we all have something to give that will honor God and help others. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. And in so doing our lives will be a story that will be a continual blessing.
For example, I knew a great man, a kind and gentle man who was not formally educated; but who loved his family and worked hard to support them. He taught them love of God, self; and instilled in his children a desire to get an education. Was he a perfect man? No. None of us are. But, because of his legacy of love, encouragement and support, I am a God-fearing, educated woman. Thank you Carl Purify Murdaugh, my dad, for walking your line in accordance with your God-given ability.
There is another special man that I must shout out. I spent forty years of my life with him. He is none other than my beloved late husband, Deacon Robert Ricardo Lane, aka Rico. He leaves a legacy of unconditional love and selfless generosity for me and our family (both immediate and extended). This love was shown through dedicated and dependable service to God, God's word, his family and God's people. You could count on him to always show up when needed and to be helpful when he arrived. He fed us all well. So well that there is at least fifty pounds I could lose. Of course now I have to cook for myself. That's okay, I need to eat less anyway. I miss his presence, but his essence lingers always. Thank you Rico, my love, for always believing in me, for eliminating any doubt that I could depend on you and for living your line (life) in a way that showed us all God's love and care. I remain comforted by your love. Your life continues to make a difference.
Indulge me once more; please. My good friend and neighbor Ms. Joan Bolden transitioned recently. I am, of course saddened by the loss of her physical presence, but rejoice in having known her. She possessed a sweet, gentle, kind and encouraging spirit. Her engaging smile, loving manner, and sense of humor (she always told me I looked at least twenty years younger than I actually am) made us fast friends and pulled me in every time. Her love and commitment to her family are to be emulated. Ms. Bolden, my good friend and neighbor, I miss you already. I am touched by your life, and you will always have a special place in my heart. So glad God allowed our lines to intersect.
What's your line? Some thoughts:
1. Write a short paragraph about yourself as a way of introduction to others. What would make you smile as the description is being read? Most importantly, have you used your gifts, talents and abilities to honor God and serve others? I know this sounds like a lot to do. Really, it is quite simple. Live a life of love and service. When this is your goal, the choices that support this goal will become apparent. i.e., When a family member or a friend is in need, (or even someone you don't know), show them love. And think. What would you like for someone to do for you if you were in that same condition? And then act. Seeking God's guidance in living a life that fully uses all your gifts and talents will be a daily endeavor.
2. Not especially gifted? Maybe in your mind your gifts do not rank in the top ten. That's okay. You would be surprised at their value. For example, compassion and forgiveness are gifts of tremendous worth. Take a listen. When the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was supposedly caught in the act of adultery requesting that she be stoned to death, he did not even inquire about the raucous. He simply bent down and started to write on the ground. "He straightened up and said to them "Let any one of you who is without sin cast the first stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground." John 8:7-8. Those rocks dropped slowly to the ground as one by one the accusers left without casting a single stone. "Jesus
straightened up and asked her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one sir, she said. "Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:10-11. Compassion and forgiveness were a matter of life and death to that woman that day. No gift is insignificant. Purpose in your heart that you will use whatever gift, skill, talent or ability you possess to the height of your capability.
3. Examine your life. "The unexamined life is not worth living," says Socrates' the philosopher. I will not go that far, but I will agree that we have to stop and take stock of where we have been and where we are going. In this way, if we are not headed to the place we need to be, we can make changes. If you are not representing your life well, do something about that without further delay. If you are waiting to start living, I got news for you. You already are. Make it count. I am reasonably certain that you are either using your gifts and talents and abilities to the ultimate and just have not given it much thought; or you are sitting on them waiting to activate them. Wake up! and/or Get up!! Start putting them to good use. There is a world that we are to impact, and we start at home.
4. What will your legacy be? First think about the story you have been living. Is this the one you want told? If not, Begin anew! Start writing! (Why Write? Because when we reduce our plans to writing/goal setting, we have a better chance of following through). Then, Walk the line!!
Here's to living the life we were created to live!
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Reminder: Upcoming book signing, March 17, 2019. Dia & Noche, 640 McLean Avenue, Yonkers, 3:00-7:00 pm. You are welcome to attend. Looking forward to seeing you there.