Amazement. That's what I feel whenever I think about all God does for all of humanity; does for me. I am so unworthy yet He chose to save me, give me His Holy Spirit to live inside of me, and then He even gives me gifts so that I can take part in His work. Unbelievable.
When we talk about spiritual gifts, it's ALL about God. It's not to any of our credit what gifting God has given us, but is all to His glory. It's GOD who GAVE us these gifts, it's all about His supreme goodness to us, and though us.
Repeatedly in my life God has chosen to gift and use me in the areas of Mercy, Encouragement, and Leadership. Always He has used these gifts through me to shower His love on the people in my life; at home, at church, at work, and everywhere else that I go.
Routinely I'm drawn to what some people may call "down and outers". Unshowered, "rag tag" type folks on the street will almost always stop and talk to me. I get to tell them how God loves them and wants to bring them to Himself and bless them. I get to give them food and/or money. I get to show them respect and listen to what they have to say. I know that some people struggle with feeling judgmental toward these type of people, or even feeling just plain uncomfortable. But God in me doesn't leave room for those type feelings. In my jobs I've almost always worked in settings that served the disenfranchised (mentally ill, developmentally disabled, severely chemically addicted, etc.); I think that's because God's made me motivated by mercy.
On a regular basis clerks in stores, or at my yearly work physical location, or bank tellers, etc. will just start telling me their woes and I get to love on them. Speak words of encouragement over their troubles. Often this is only for a few brief moments, and then I'll go on my way praying for them silently. Every great once in a while I get to actually pray God's blessing over them.
Throughout my life God has given me opportunities at my school, work, or church to have a special word of hope and encouragement for someone. Often I'll write it down on a card and mail it to them. I never cease to be amazed at how blessed people are by these cards (although why I'm amazed is rather silly since it's God who is leading me and it is He who is giving me the words of encouragement to speak to their hearts).
I can remember one really cool work experience where God blessed both myself and others by letting me use these words of encouragement that He speaks to my heart for others. It was when I was an administrator of a secured psychiatric facility and I'd been there less than 8 months. That particular facility had struggled keeping a director of nursing, and in the entire nursing department, for the prior several years. We were having a luncheon to honor the licensed nurses, there were only perhaps 9 of them. I felt impressed to set it up so that as we finished the dinner I called them each up one at a time. When they came up I gave each of them a specific word that characterized them, written on a piece of paper. Then I spoke about that nurse in relation to that word. The Lord gave me those words, even though I did not say that at work. He loved those nurses through me, and boy did they respond. Their hearts were open and they ate it up! Our world is tough and people respond to mercy that chooses to not focus on their faults and to words of encouragement.
Frequently through the years God's blessed me with opportunities through the church or in the community to facilitate small groups. Some of these groups have been Bible study oriented, some recovery oriented, some of a purely social nature. It seems like during those groups He's almost always using my mouth to speak words of mercy and encouragement to the participants.
It's been said that one simple way to tell what gifts God has given to you, is to look at what He's doing though you. From as early on as elementary school, I've routinely ended up in charge of things. Now this would seem normal if I was outgoing and driven, but I'm not. I'm what Meyer Friedman and his colleagues would have classified as a Type B Personality; laid back, wants things to be so that "everybody can win", not particularly motivated by the classic signs of success. I'm even on the shy side. But, even when I try to stay back and let other people be in charge, I almost always end up in the driver's seat of things.
I believe that's because there are few people who are willing to step forward and lead. I also believe that it's because God's given me the gift of leadership. So in our local church I get to serve by joining together with a few other women who, together, we seek God for what He wants to do through and for the women in our local congregation. Together by God's leading this team makes the decisions about what directions women's ministry is going to take, what we're going to be doing, what needs to be going on. Then each of us steps out in various areas to make that vision real on the nuts and bolts level.
In my work, repeatedly through the years God's given me a vision of ways to accomplish the mission of the business, and I've been able to implement methods that bring both monetary and service success. Repeatedly through the years I've been blessed to invest in the leaders that report to me and help them develop their skills and gifts and provide them with opportunities to grow and gain recognition.
One of my all time most encouraging experiences with regard to leadership was something my oldest son, who graduated this past spring from USMA WestPoint, told me. He said that God has blessed him many times in many situations with opportunities to learn about leadership but that no one has ever taught him more about leadership than I have. That's a God thing!
You may notice as you're reading this that as I'm talking about spiritual gifts I'm not just talking about formal ministry in the church. I'm talking about day to day life at work and where ever I go. That's because I don't think life can be divided up; God works in my life where ever I am. Certainly the Bible indicates that spiritual gifts are given by God to be used in the body of Christ, which also means in the local gathering of that body. But because He's gifted us, those gifts are used wherever we are at if we will be open. Sometimes in the past I've missed out on using the gifts He's given me because I've been looking for formal "ministry" opportunities. But I've learned that all of life is the "opportunity".
Today I'm just trying to learn to be open and hear His voice and step out as He brings opportunities my way.