August 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 1

Spiritual Gifts

By Janice Alonso

Photo of an acoustic guitarEach morning I begin my day with a devotional time where I read the Bible and an inspirational piece. Then I pray that the scripture will guide me in some way. It's the same routine, day-in and day- out, and I love it. This time of meditation prepares me for whatever may lie ahead. As much as I've read and studied the Bible, it continually amazes me how God speaks to me in new and inventive ways that I could never imagine if you gave me a lifetime to think about it. I've always subscribed to the theory that laughter is often the best medicine and sometimes the best teacher. Not long ago God communicated with me in a way that admonished me and yet made me smile at the same time.

It was a Sunday morning, and I had chosen for the week 1 Corinthians. I read from chapter twelve, a section that deals with spiritual gifts. Some of these gifts include the messages of wisdom, knowledge and faith. Speaking in tongues, however, is a gift I've had any experience with. I come from a traditional upbringing, so this has never been a part of my religious background. I finished reading chapter twelve, said my prayer, and prepared for church service, looking forward to how the sermon would increase my knowledge and faith, and guide me for the upcoming week.

I arrived at church to find we were celebrating Youth Sunday. We were honoring the Confirmation Class, so various youth groups were leading the worship service. Teens greeted people at the doors, handed out bulletins at the sanctuary entrance, ushered people down the aisles, and provided the music for the service. On the platform with the ministers, a group of young musicians banged tambourines, strummed electrical guitars, sucked and puffed into harmonicas, and pounded on drums.

The songs were unfamiliar to me, so I sat in silence and listened as youthful attendees tapped their feet and clapped their hands as they joined in chorus and sang out the words.

Now, I have to admit here that I enjoy my traditional approach to worship. I know and believe in my heart that making a joyful noise is beautiful no matter the language, tempo, or instruments employed. But I felt out of my element, away from my comfort zone, and I hoped this was not a glimpse of things to come. Finally, the pre-worship ceremony came to an end and our minister stepped to the pulpit, and to my relief, continued with our "regularly scheduled program." I settled back, eager to slip into my peaceful realm. Then the minister sat down.

The group on stage rearranged; some band members left and new ones joined in. A shaggy-haired young fellow dragged a stool to the microphone, adjusted the mouthpiece, and played a few chords on his acoustical guitar. A reverent silence settled over the congregation as he sang. His was a beautiful voice, a tenor that floated into the air and made me feel one with God in spirit, connected to the other Christians gathered in praise, and set my mind at peace. I listened so that I could concentrate on the lyrics, but I couldn't understand a word he said. We had a copy of the songs in our bulletin, so I folded over to that page, and followed the verses word by word. I soon realized the boy must have a speech impediment. As my ears grew accustomed to his different pronunciations, I didn't need the written page at all. My mind inclined to his message and I understood every word. It was amazing that by just learning how to listen in a different manner, I was able to follow everything with ease. How impressed I was that where another individual with a similar challenge may have fled the spotlight and not sought to glorify God, this teen had set himself in center stage.

After the service, I filed into an area where refreshments were being served. looked around for this young man so I could tell him how much I had enjoyed his music. There he was, back to his teen self, chugging a can of Coke and eating a brownie. I walked up to him and introduced myself praised his musical talent and asked how he'd gotten started. He smiled broadly, obviously pleased with the recognition, thanked me for the compliment and went on to explain his love of music and Christ. As I listened, I noticed a glint and clicking coming from inside his mouth. The boy didn't have an impediment at all he had a pierced tongue.

When I got back home, I laughed at my own naivete to think that God couldn't figure out a way to use my passage about speaking in tongues. A stretch to fit the text to the message on my part? Maybe, but I believe it was more. You see, when I went home and reread chapter twelve, it was verse four that stood out:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Corinthians 12: 4NIV)

Sometimes I get too used to my ways. While I don't like to admit it, I know that they aren't the only ways or even the best ways. How little I've learned after all these years of Bible study. God has so much more planned for me to learn, and in constantly new and exciting ways!