making myself available

I keep talking about this "a la orden" philosophy, so this week I stopped talking and tried to start applying. And, GOODNESS, it is like singing sweet freedom's song and hearing it echo in the greatest canyon! I thought I would try to summarize some thoughts, if no other reason than by way of reminder to make myself available to serve with the ways God has shared Himself with me.

The philosophy of "a la orden" (Spanish for, "at your service"): Making conscious, consistent decisions to put the needs of others in front of my own by making my gifts completely available.

We know that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Anything good in this world is good because it comes from the Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth. So, whatever good things ended up in me - gifts or abilities or talents - are there as the distinct, divine fingerprint of an Almighty God. They are not from me, because I am not capable of producing anything (John 15:5). Every ability or gift we have is revealing something about His character and creativity.

So, if I recognize that I've got a good set of gifts on loan from the Creator, I must also recognize I have no right to hoard them. If I turn the gift inside out so only I can see and enjoy it, two things happen: 1) the gift fails its purpose (to bless others) and 2) I have wrong views of God and myself. I try to take the shortcut to joy by enjoying ways God has blessed me without using those blessings for their intended purpose. It's no surprise that I come up short on joy and frustrated by my self-centered excitement in my gifts.

In Philippians 2, Paul challenges the church,

"if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul asks, have you benefited at all by this relationship you have with the Living God? Then, Paul says, nothing would bring me more joy than to see you joining together in community and serving one another. Paul goes on to describe Christ's character that we should strive to emulate,

Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Christ was the greatest gift and He opened Himself up completely that everyone might enjoy Him. Everything He received from the Father (by being indeed one with Him), He made completely available.

I think this is maybe what it means to look to the interests of others. It's not just keeping your eyes peeled for that little, old lady needing help to cross the street. As we are working out faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), we must be searching God for ways His gifts can be made available through us.

Sometimes it takes awhile to understand how God has gifted us... and that's okay! But, Paul's advice for the church in Philippi is useful here as well. Encourage one another! Be like-minded! Look for ways God has blessed other people and then LET THEM KNOW IT! Build them up in their gifts and encourage them to praise God for His unique fingerprints on their lives.

Then... we use God's gifts in our lives like a Mary Poppins bag of blessings! I know God's in charge of the blessing, so when I make His gifts available to others through me - EVERYBODY WINS! I receive the joy of obedience and service, someone else receives encouragement or a mentor or a much needed Scripture, and GOD gets the glory. I'm only the vessel that holds the water of blessing for others to drink! Christ said COME and DRINK and there's no way I would try to take that place, but being a vessel that carries the hope of eternal life is like walking around with 4th of July fireworks in my heart.

The more loosely I hold onto things of this world - whether it be words or jeans or the gift of organization - the more tightly I cling to the indescribable joy of eternity.

That'll have to do for now, folks. I'm sure I'll be processing this more in these days. As for practical application, I take it day by day. But I would say trying to live this out has rendered me speechless. There aren't enough pages to record all the blessings, but at the same time I can't seem to articulate just one. God is so good!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!