Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Surrender as a gift

Spiritual gifts have been on my mind and heart this week as I read and prepare for a full-day retreat I will lead next month. This topic has been near and dear to me for a long time and I am elated to delve in more deeply for a wonderful group of Quakers on their annual renewal day.

Of course, I have plenty of play planned. Play that gets us out of our heads and into our hearts, where we may better discern our gifts and those of others. Serendipitously, I facilitated a shorter retreat in August, also on naming gifts. One of the gifts of teaching is how much you learn in the process!

The pink line is me – couldn't figure the embryo out 'til now: my gift
Where this gets more interesting is that I am understanding a gift that I have been given. I am not certain if it is new or just that I am now discovering it. And I hadn't even put it in the context of a gift until last week when a healing-touch friend exclaimed that it is, indeed, a gift.

I couldn't see that on my own and that is precisely why I have pushed for naming gifts in my Meeting for a very long time. We often are not objective enough to notice them in ourselves.

I made a similar statement early on in the August retreat when a gentleman, who had earlier introduced himself as our yearly meeting's only evangelist, disagreed. With eyes boring into me, he said all we need do is look inside and God will show us our gifts. That simple.

For a moment, I doubted myself and wanted to say "Well then, I guess there's no reason to hold the rest of this retreat." But someone said she doubts her gifts and even experiences fear around them. We came full circle by the end, when my meeting's minister tenderly spoke of a member who had killed herself a week earlier because she could not see her gifts.

I believe the man who can look inside and see it all clearly is in the minority. The rest of us need encouragement and nurture from each other. Everything I am perusing and re-reading confirms that.

"It is the faith community's responsibility to name giftedness of its members because we cannot see ourselves clearly," Lloyd Lee Wilson writes in Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order.

When that happens "Such a process frees the individual from fear, hesitation and caution; they have others who will help take the responsibility for the cultivation of a gift, and the ministry or service that flows from claiming it, living into it, and using it," according to Quaker Marty Grundy. She's pretty wise. Over a dozen years ago, when I was first introduced to spiritual formation and nurture, she gave the best advice that I continue to live by and share about listening. The burden of translation, when listening deeply, prayerfully, to another is on the listener, she said. It's so counter to what we are used to: that the speaker articulate. I call it listening by heart, beyond the words and to the other person's heart.

Perhaps seeing gifts in another is a similar process. A looking beyond the surface, deeper, to that place God resides in each of us.

My all-time favorite Quaker book, a slim volume, was first published in 1750 and has a rather archaic title: A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister by Samuel Bownas. I was re-directed there via an Internet search. This book has been tremendously helpful over the years as I see Spirit leading me out of the shadows of eldering, a behind-the-scenes nurturing, to a more out-there ministry.

Writing about traditional vocal ministry, I think what Bownas has to say applies to any spiritual gift.
"I advise to an inward waiting upon thy gift, to feel the moving thereof in thy own mind, which will by a gentle illumination clear thy understanding and judgment, whereby thee will see thy place and service in the church." In early ministry, or new awareness of a gift, Bownas counsels Friends to "help by tender advice ... which should be tenderly and with care administered. If he be corrected, let it be in love; if encouraged, let it be with prudence. Both may hurt him, if not well timed, and given discreetly."

Early on in this search, I focused on Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church naming spiritual gifts and their place in a faith community. So, I was a little stunned to read a verse from 1 Corinthians in a book on energy work someone I trust directed me to regarding an emerging gift:

Follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts ...that ye may prophesy                             – 1 Corinthians 14:1

I love that I am working on a retreat about naming gifts and doing the very same thing myself. This IS where I am meant to be.

• How clearly do I recognize my own spiritual gifts?
• Who can help me name and claim my gifts?
• What are my gifts?
• Can I see them in others?
• Am I called to help others name theirs?

been a little
murky, discerning
a message from
Spirit to surrender

I've been afraid
of losing a
part of me or
my life

to which
I cling

yet I slowly
drudge ahead,
praying, waiting,
not knowing


when a new gift
pops up,

I am being given

not punished
or penalized

but called
to trust
this gift and
surrender its
use to Spirit

Listen to this post:

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