An Apron, a Sketch, and Everything in Between

“Everyone to whom much was given….” (Luke 12:48)*

What sets you apart from everyone else?

My wife Nicole is ridiculously talented artistically. And whereas most artists’ talents are

Nicole Drawing
I can’t even write words so people can read them, and Nicole can draw people…PEOPLE!!

restricted to one or two mediums, Nicole’s abilities know no bounds. In fact, she loves finding something that is completely new to her and figuring out how to do it.

We all possess something that no one else does. It is a big part of what makes us unique. Whatever that gift is, whether it is a physical possession, a talent that is exceptional, or a personality characteristic that makes us stand out, we basically have two options of what we can do with it.

The first option is that we can use that gift to set us apart from others as someone to be admired or envied. When we do this, odds are, we will have a few people who we call “friends”. They will tend to be others with some exceptional gift (perhaps similar to ours, but not necessarily so) and our common bond will be our exceptionalism.

This approach isolates and creates a context from which the “gifted” look down on the plebeians as people who possess less value. One great risk of taking this route is that the second your “gift” is gone, those you once thought were friends will immediately cast you out among the commoners you looked down upon. That means that at the very moment you need your “friends” the most, they will completely abandon you.

Apron
Nicole’s line of luxury aprons ended up all over the world. This is from a photo shoot in Canada. Oh, and she designed the first aprons before she even knew how to sew.

Then there is a second option. Rather than using that with which you were blessed to bolster your personal image, you instead use it primarily as a means of blessing others. One is not likely to reach this conclusion from outside of a Judaeo Christian worldview which teaches that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above….” (James 1:17)  From that perspective, we have been entrusted with our gifts and since the ultimate source is God, we have no right to feel arrogant about it.

This approach, you will quickly find, produces some amazing results.

People who live like this are magnetic. They

Pirate Decor
Did I mention that she does parties? Yep, even pirate ones.

bring people together and something more akin to community takes place, rather than the isolation created by Option A. Secondly, and perhaps even more amazing than the first, you will discover that you actually get more enjoyment out of your gift when you allow others to enjoy it with you. There is a reason we try so hard to teach our children to share when they are young, and that is because it is genuinely Good.When you do Good things with your gifts, is it any surprise that Good things happen?

Nicole could very easily use her gifts to look down on others as less talented than she is, because quite frankly almost everyone is less artistically talented than she is. But the thing is, she doesn’t. Instead of viewing life through the prism of her gifts, she views her gifts through the prism of her Christian life. As a result, her gifts give her an amazing opportunity to bless others in her own unique way.

Easter Egg Table
And sometimes Nicole just goes all out so a bunch of kids will have a day they will never forget.

And bless she does!

How can you use your unique gifts to be a blessing to others?

 

 

*This is merely one application of this verse, and I first thought of the principle then the verse, rather than reaching the principle from the verse via exegesis.

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The Redbox Nudge

His name was David. I didn’t know it at the time, and truth be told I didn’t want to know it. I just wanted to grab a couple of energy drinks at the gas station and see if there were any new movies at Redbox that Nicole and I could watch over the weekend.

Homeless Man“Avoid eye contact” is kind of the rule of thumb with homeless people. If you don’t, he is likely to engage you, and that can get pretty uncomfortable.

There was a man sitting with his back against the window right next to the Redbox kiosk, and I intended to avoid him if possible. But sometimes, His plans are a little different than mine.

If you are married or have a significant other, then you are definitely familiar with the

Photo Call For Columbia Pictures' "Total Recall"
This guy definitely just got “nudged”. Awkward!

“elbow nudge”. For example, you’re talking to someone you know, but your spouse doesn’t, and there it is – nudge, nudge. Dangit! I forgot to introduce her!

You are talking to her parents and crack an inappropriate joke (I have of course never done this). Nudge-nudge!! This one borders on painful. You know exactly what’s going through her mind. “What the heck are you thinking?!”

You always know what the nudge means, based on the context in which you receive the nudge.

That’s how it often is when the Lord wants me to do something. I might be at a restaurant with Nicole and I look over at a family that has young kids. They are obviously not doing well financially and are sharing a couple of meals between all five of them. Nudge-nudge. “Cover their meal. And while you’re at it, throw in a Cookie Monster desert for each of the kids. Oh, and by the way, make sure the waiter doesn’t let them know who did it.”

I am at a toll booth. Nudge-nudge. “Pay for the next car. You don’t know who it is, but I do. It will be more encouraging to them than you can imagine.”

I am talking with someone I barely know and he is telling me about some challenging issues he is currently facing. Nudge-nudge. “You need to pray for this man…out loud.”

I don’t know. Sometimes praying for someone else, out loud, is pretty awkward. I’ll just pray for him when I get home.

Nudge-nudge-nudge.

Okay! Okay!

Well, there I was walking up to check out the Redbox movies and wouldn’t you know…nudge-nudge.

I tried to convince myself that it was the wind, or something else so I could ignore it.

Nudge-nudge-nudge.

Alright, I give!

I stopped resisting and simply said, “Hello. How are you?”

He paused and said he was doing okay. He didn’t ask for money, which I was anticipating. He just said he was trying to get moving on.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

He said he ultimately wanted to head towards Tulsa, but mentioned a McDonald’s next to a major truck stop on I-44. He figured that if he could get there, he could hitch a ride the rest of the way with a trucker.

Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to be “nudged” (or whatever you want to call it), but I know some people do. Either way, I knew what I was supposed to do. I am yet to regret obeying the nudge, but I have ignored it. Every time I ignore it, I wish I hadn’t.

“I’ll give you a ride.” I said, knowing it was a few miles out of my way.

He was very appreciative and climbed into the passenger seat of my Yukon. I don’t think I found a good movie and I can’t remember any cans of Monster rolling around in the back seat. However, I do remember him, and that’s a good sign of what was most important that evening.

We pulled out of the gas station, then took a right onto the on-ramp to I-44.

I love getting to know people and everybody likes to talk about themselves, so I simply asked him some questions. He talked about his transient life, the many places he’d been, and mentioned that he was a very good roofer…at least five times.

Homeless WomanWe neared the exit, went up the ramp and suddenly he said, “Slow down.” There was a girl on the side of the road holding a sign. David reached into his pocket and pulled out a huge wad of bills.

“Roll your window down, please.”

I did as I was asked and he handed her a few dollars.

“You don’t fly a sign unless things are really bad,” he said.

“Really bad?” I thought to myself. “You’re hanging out at a gas station, hoping to eventually hitch a ride to another state for no good reason. Everything in this world that you own you are currently wearing or it is in your pockets, and that’s not really bad?!”

I had been introduced to a homeless hierarchy of misfortune of which I was totally unaware, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. David had been in the same situation as that young lady, so he could empathize with her while I was still attempting to intellectually understand her situation.

David and I were miles apart in our ability to relate to someone “flying a sign” and that fact revealed a principle to me that I have since taught to many others. Sometimes the very thing we view as our greatest weakness provides us with our greatest (and often most unique) strength.

Were you at some point homeless and destitute? You are in a better position than anyone else to help someone who is currently in that situation.

Have you overcome breast cancer? Thousands would benefit from everything you learned during those trying times.

Are you single and broke? Your faith is going to be tested, but you are also not tied down to any particular location. You possess a freedom and agility that someone who is married with two children and a mortgage does not have.

We see David in the Old Testament as defenseless and weak, standing there looking David and Goliathpathetic with no armor to protect him. His perceived weakness allowed him to wield his sling and with pinpoint accuracy kill a giant 4 times his size without getting a single scratch.

I dropped David off at McDonald’s, he said thank you and shook my hand. No request for anything material at all; just appreciation.

There is no doubt who fared better in my few minutes with David. He got a ride, but I got a lesson I will never forget. That is how things tend to work in God’s economy. We do something in obedience to Him and He does more with it than we could have imagined.

It kind of reminds me of a guy who was willing to give up his lunch one hot afternoon….

“They’ll All Laugh at You!”

“Did he care what people thought of him? Maybe. But not enough to keep him from doing what was right.”*

If your life is going to have a dramatic impact on others, on your community, or especially on your culture, you would want the same to be said of you.

The context Dr. Emil Freirich used his fearlessness to revolutionize was a children's leukemia ward.
The context Dr. Emil Freirich used his fearlessness to revolutionize was a children’s leukemia ward.

There are crossroads that each of us will come to where we know what we should do, see that no one else is doing it, know people will think we are nuts, and have to decide if we are going to do it anyway.

The single factor that stops so many would-be great leaders is that they know others will think less of them. Then they stand down. They conform. They take the one thing that is truly unique about themselves and tuck it away on a shelf, because they know that it is so new and so unique that initially, people won’t know what to do with it. That makes people uncomfortable. When you make people uncomfortable they don’t like it and therefore don’t like you. Just ask Jesus.

Untold thousands of children have enjoyed full lives since the brave work of Dr. Emil Freireich.
Untold thousands of children have enjoyed full lives since the brave work of Dr. Emil Freireich.

How passionate are you about doing what you know to be right? Can you take the heat, the criticism, even the mockery? If you can, the sky’s the limit. You might very well be the one to revolutionize your industry, your ministry, your community, or even your family.

 

*This quote was said about Dr. Emil J. Freireich, a now renowned physician who risked everything from his reputation to his career to implement groundbreaking new practices in the treatment of childhood leukemia. You will be able to read his amazing story in my upcoming post.