faith, Joy

on owning my gifts

February 4, 2013
Fiona LynneKoefoed-Jespersen teaching at a women's retreat. Photo by Almyra Knevel Persson

Saturday evening found me standing in my study, going through my sermon one last time for the next morning. I’d put a big pile of food and interior design magazines on top of my desk, hoisted my cookbook stand from the kitchen on top of them to create a makeshift lectern to practise with. It was dark outside and I stood preaching to the darkness by the French windows, my neighbours across the way probably wondering what on earth as I was doing.

And as I stood there I prayed, God would it be your words they hear tomorrow. Would everything of me drop away and it all be you. I’ve heard preachers pray it many times before so it sounded right.

Then I paused, and I know this is going to sound odd, but it was like I heard God cough politely, in that way that people do sometimes when they don’t quite agree with something you just said and are giving you a moment to realise it before they tell you exactly why you’re missing the point.

So I thought for a moment and then I took a deep breath and prayed again and something quite new came out. God, use me. Use my youth, use my personality, use my enthusiasm and my belief in this word you’ve given me, use my love of metaphors, use my over-enthusiasm every time there’s a woman in the passage, use the illustrations for my own life, use my courage, use my excitement to speak. Use me.

I went to bed and slept soundly that night. I did dream that we’d lost all the chairs at church which caused some minor panic amongst the dream-elders (and amusement from me who was convinced we’d cope without them). And I woke up before my alarm, emptied the dishwasher, made breakfast, tidied my side of the bedroom, lifted my hands in the kitchen to the hauntingly holy lyrics of a Josh Garrels song and whispered again and again, use me. use me. use me.

///

I may have lived many years outside the country of my childhood but there’s a stubborn core of Englishness still inside me, and it is no more prominent than the moment someone is complimenting me. Something in me becomes horridly awkward and uncomfortable. Goodness, don’t tell me nice things, what am I supposed to do with it? The English woman in me jumps to deny. No no no, it was nothing, it is nothing, nothing nothing nothing. Don’t say any more, heavens. And so it takes every ounce of effort in me to pronounce those two syllables: Thank You.

And yet everyone wants to talk to you when you’ve just spoken for twenty minutes in front of them. And something happened this time. I remembered my prayer, my morning mutterings, use me use me use. And I recognised an answered prayer. Felt a heavenly smile, a nudge at my back pushing me forward, the proud parent telling me, Go. Accept their words. Because I did use you.

Your youth, your personality, your enthusiasm and your belief in this word I gave you, your love of metaphors, your over-enthusiasm every time there’s a woman in the passage, your illustrations of your own life, your courage, your excitement to speak. And I used the gifts I have given to you.

I have gifts. I have strengths. I have skills, honed and practised. And to deny them is to deny the one who gave them to me. To refuse to let anyone notice them in me, to feel the need to pretend they don’t really exist, well it’s perhaps even more damaging than the pride I’m so afraid of being accused of.

And there’s this line to keep practising walking, between the boast of a prideful heart and the denial of something that’s real. And I want to walk that line, to be able to accept and celebrate the gifts that have been given to me, use them, practise them, develop them, improve them. God keep me from bragging and boasting, but keep me from denying who you have made me to be.

///

On Friday, I read these words on Amber Haines’ blog, and I’m pretty sure it was her words, swirling in the back of my mind for a few days, that led me through this thought process.

“I have struggled so to release the guilt of enjoying what I do. That sounds insane and shackled, I know, but I bet I’m not alone. I’m terrified that if I enjoy it, or worse – if YOU enjoy what I do, then I’ll worship it. I won’t fit my britches. I’ll turn into someone terrible and shirk my responsibilities… Well, it’s decided now. I’m allowed to find joy in the work I’m called to do, and I’m allowed to release the work to which I am not called.” – Amber Haines

Yes, to finding joy in the work I’m called to…

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  • Wow Fiona, so powerful 🙂 How come you had to preach? Are you studying to be a pastor or something like that? (Sorry for my ignorance… in the catholic church women are not allowed to do much in that sense, except for maybe, reading and singing).
    Anywhow, I wanted to say that your words -use me- immediately made me think of a song we were taught when we went on Missions: it is in Spanish though, but I think you will get it. It’s called “colaboración”. The choir goes:
    “Cristo no tiene manos y pide las tuyas.
    Cristo no tiene voz que cante su canción.
    Cristo no tiene pies para caminar el mundo y
    pide COLABORACIÓN.

    El camino no es fácil,se hace largo ya.
    Entre flores y espinas he de caminar.
    Para darle a la gente un bello final
    de alegría y gozo en la eternidad

    Cristo tienes mis manos usalas cual tuyas
    Cristo tienes mi voz que cante tu canción
    Cristo tienes mis pies para caminar el mundo
    Cristo aquí tienes mi amor.”

    It really is a nice song, it is saying (roughly freely translated): “Christ does not have hands, and he asks for yours, Christ does not have a voice and asks for yours, Christ does not have feet to walk the world. And he requests your help. The road is not easy, and it is long. I have to walk among flowers and thorns, to give people a beautiful ending, of happiness and joy in eternity. Christ her is my voice, use them as if they were yours, Christ here is my voice that sings your song, Christ here are my feet to walk the world, Christ here is my love”

    You can listen to it here:

    And the full lyrics are here:

    http://www.musica.com/letras.asp?letra=1819627

    Own it girl 🙂 You are such an inspiration.

    • fionalynne

      This is a beautiful song, Amanda.
      No, no plans to be ordained yet 😉 Our church is wonderfully open to women using their gifts in any area of ministry. Our pastor was travelling to a conference last weekend and asked if I would preach while he was away.

  • Mum

    This is something I have stuggled with too. Go girl – you are way ahead of me!

    • fionalynne

      Well I’m not sure I’d have been up there on Sunday without your example and encouragement over many years… love you mum!

  • Beautiful, Fiona. So much wisdom here.

    I confess I’m a little bit envious that you’ve found a place where you can feel God using you so distinctly. Perhaps I need to make your prayer a part of my daily life, too!

    • fionalynne

      Kathleen, I don’t know a lot about your life, but don’t underestimate the impact you are having through your blog. You inspire me every time I visit. x

  • “to accept and celebrate the gifts that have been given to me.”

    YES. though everything in me writhes when someone acknowledges a gift of mine, I think I’m realizing that this kind of thing might be keeping me from using them.

    It’s crazy that you’re writing about this today, as I heard this little sermon yesterday at church that I think you would just love: http://goo.gl/ZAC5b

    • fionalynne

      SO GOOD.

      “LOVE is where you got the gift. The heart of God spilled out into the world and filled it with gifts, talents, treasures… therefore offer it in LOVE and stop worrying about what other people think about it…”

      Thanks for sharing this and thanks for being here 🙂

  • Beautiful `but keep me from denying who you have made me to be` – something that I have to take to heart too; although I have learned to say ´thank you´ it doesn´t always resonate. Well done, and go forth Fiona!

    • fionalynne

      Thank you, Fenny! Love your enthusiasm in my facebook feed every day 🙂

  • Beautiful! Can I just feel a little bit proud of you from this side of the world? I wish I could have been there to hear you. Any chance it’s online?

    • fionalynne

      Idelette, your encouraging words have spurred me on this last year, so you have every right to that pride 🙂 They do often record the sermon as a podcast. I’ve not seen it online yet, but if it does appear I will let you know…

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  • Can I just say how much I love this? All of this?! Yay you!!!!!!!

  • Hope I get to hear you speak sometime, Fiona, that’s such an amazing thing to do and am glad you are finding joy in it. And thank you for writing this yesterday, especially the quote “I’m allowed to find joy in the work I’m called to do, and I’m allowed to release the work to which I am not called” was something I really needed to read as I struggled to come to terms with a decision about this!

  • I am far from there even being older than you… But I so love reading your words. Thank you for taking the time to share.

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  • As someone who’s preached before, I love this. It’s very similar to my own experiences preaching. We are all unique, whatever we’re doing, and God uses that.