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"But to each of you is given the  manifestation of the Spirit for the common good"
(1 Corinthians 12:7).

If you have been reading Sam’s reports on his Strategic Internal Review (the StIR)—and especially if you listened to Gary’s talk during the service on February 13—you will know Southwood is searching for people. Some might call these people "volunteers", but I prefer to consider them willing servants of God.

Christians are called to embrace the concept of the willing servant and this first letter to the Corinthians makes it pretty clear that we all have something we are supposed to do for others. So … let’s talk about gifts, because the manifestation of the Spirit is the gift you have been given by God to serve God and your community.

You may be thinking, “But I don’t have a gift”. That is normal. So many of us think a "spiritual gift" has to be something impressive. We all know, or at least have heard of, people who are gifted musicians or artists or who have dedicated their lives to mission work. Those are indeed gifts, but not all gifts are like that. In fact, some God-given gifts are small, quiet affairs. We may not even recognize our gift for what it is. Take, for example, the gift of hospitality. I remember having a conversation where a woman told me how much she loved meeting new people. I confessed to her that I am a bit of an introvert, and that meeting new people is hard for me. I suggested that she had a gift of hospitality. This was a surprise to her. She thought everyone enjoyed meeting people. She started to use her gift as greeter in our church, and what a joy it was to be met at the door with her sincere and welcoming smile!

If you are thinking about taking on a role at church and that little critic that lives in our mind says, “Oh,  ANYONE could do that, and probably better than you”, you might pray about it and hear God tell you, “No, you are the one I have equipped to do this better than anyone else.” Sometimes it may take some thought to identify your gift. Consider what you love to do when you begin to discern what your gift might be and how God wants you to use it. One way to know if you are doing what God wants is to pay attention to your emotional response when you do it. If you have a great feeling of peace and satisfaction that is a sign that you are on the right path. Be aware that when you're contemplating using your gift, doing what you love, you might hear that inner critic say, “Yes, that’s something you love to do, but you should let other people have that pleasure.” At this point you might pray about it and hear God say, “You love this because that is what you are supposed to do, and it pleases me.” Gifts are given to be used for God’s purposes.

Sometimes they may be something you don’t know how to do, or how to do well, or are uncomfortable with. If you are willing and feel a call, God may be telling you to get some experience or training.  Sometimes God uses those who are willing rather than someone who can but whose heart isn’t there. There may be something that you love to do and do well, but think is just too odd to be a gift or to use for a Godly purpose. My personal belief is that God’s gifts can take unusual forms. Take, for example, backhoe operating. You might not think that could possibly be a gift with a God-driven purpose, but what if you were such a good backhoe operator that you were flown wherever disaster struck because you could rescue people from the rubble without hurting them?

Rest assured, God can use anything and everything for good, and all good things come from God. Our lead pastor has a dream of everyone who attends Southwood as having an active faith—one that is worshipping, learning, growing, and serving. Let’s make that dream come true. It would be a miracle and maybe that miracle involves you!

I leave you with 1 Timothy 4:14: “Now do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you.” God calls us all. How will you respond?