Deceptive Storms (excerpt 1)

She sat with a glass of wine in her hands, swirling the burgundy liquid slowly, reflecting, contemplating her life.  Taking a luxurious sip, she sighed and wished for more than what she had.  More money, more house, more of a man, more happiness—just more of everything.  Leaning back on the black leather chaise in her living room, she closed her eyes, glass still in hand.  Her thoughts vacillated between what was and how she was going to fast forward.

“If I could just shake the past and move on, I’d be alright,” she thought.  “I just need to shake the past.”

Her past was a multicolored debacle.  One misstep after the other.  She tried hard to think about the last time she had actually done anything right.  She couldn’t remember.  Brain cells only seemed to recall the squirmy situations she had created or fallen into.  Fallen into—with deliberation.  She shook her head at her own recriminations.  Deciding to traipse down memory lane, she focused on the first real love of her life—the love that had left her dangling for years and finally cut off her emotions to the quick.  She had loved the wrong man as so many before her had done, but she just knew—Brian was the only man worthy of her love.  The real tragedy was that Brian was from Loser Street—and just didn’t know how to get off of it.  Appearances can certainly be deceiving.  Hefty and handsome as any movie star, Brian strolled into Charleston Café with his friends, easily the center of attention.

She had seated them at the best table in the house—near a window so they could keep an eye on the object of their discussion—the latest fast car purchased by the racing car company that was based in town.  Sleek, low to the ground, shiny black with yellow pinstripes and the company sponsor listed on the side, it was something to behold.  Apparently, the three men discussing the car thought so, too.  She heard someone say something about the most “horsepower that was legal” and that was as much as she needed to hear.  She really wanted to meet the man behind the smile and the talk.

Standing at their table waiting to take their order, her eyes shifted from one to another.  The other two men were slightly older than the man talking and she could quickly detect that the younger man was trying to convince the other two to do something.  After taking their order, she deliberately brushed against the younger man, knowing he would have to pay attention, but he didn’t.  He moved slightly and kept talking.  After she had placed their drinks on the table, he glanced at her briefly and nodded.  She perceived the nod as recognition and invitation to something later.

When they had finished their meal, the younger man eagerly picked up the check while the older men smiled, shaking each other’s hands, ready to go their separate ways.

“Brian,” she heard one of the men say, “you’ve got yourself a deal.  Come into the office tomorrow and we’ll sign the paperwork.  It’s nice doing business with you.”  They left Brian in the Café.  She had asked if he’d like for her to take the payment to the cashier, but he said no and ordered a cup of coffee.  He leaned back in the chair and openly appraised the woman in front of him.  Heat began to crawl from her toes to her face under his scrutiny, but she smiled as he apparently decided he liked what he saw.

He rose from the table and left her a tip with a note.  A telephone number.  A number that would eventually lead to more heartache than she could have ever imagined.

She had called him after her shift ended and they made plans for dinner and a movie.  The dinner and the movie were good, but his conversation was mesmerizing.  She couldn’t stop listening to him and encouraged him to keep talking.

He was one of eight children, his mother was not very healthy and his dad was a truck driver, always on the road.  When he finished school, he decided that he did not like his life and was determined to recreate himself.  He left the hollow that he had grown up in and went to Texas.  There he attended college, but became more involved with racing than books.  When he discovered that he had a knack for driving fast cars, he quickly adapted by attending the races and eventually got a chance to show what he could do.

He left ten experienced drivers in the dust during his first race.  No one watching understood how he had managed it, but he had easily won the race and a few hundred dollars.  The race itself was addictive, but the money was the jolt that kept him going.  He thought he had finally found his niche in life.  Not only was he good at racing the cars, he was an expert at finding investors to sponsor him in races.  He loved the feel and the smell of the cars, but he loved the stench of the jumpsuits after a race.   More importantly, he loved the attention he got wherever he went.

“Oh yeah,” she remembered, he loved the attention.  In the three years they dated, she could barely keep him focused on their relationship because of all the attention he received by racing.  Every where they went, people wanted to talk to them.  Alone time was seldom, but he seemed to enjoy her company and she was totally lost to him.   Lost—that’s a word she would remember for a long time.

She thought they were on their way to a march down the aisles when she discovered that he was on his way—to another woman.  She didn’t see it coming.  Never had a clue.  The connecting line had been cut and she fell with a clump, thump, and a bump—heartbroken and hell-bent on revenge.

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Good Gifts!

“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 NIV).

How often have people received gifts from others they really did not want, but accepted because they didn’t want to appear to be rude? They would accept the gift, smile, say “thank you” and do one of two things when out of the sight of the giver. The gift would find itself in the back of the closet, the basement or a drawer and not see the light of day or was given to someone else at a later time–re-gifted. Usually, this works into a cycle and sometimes–the original gift-giver was often given the gift they had given.

Fortunately, we cannot give the gifts that God gives us to anyone else–no re-gifting here. For the gifts He gives are not physical, but they are spiritual and the Holy Spirit anoints every person whom God has determined to receive a gift (I Corinthians 12:1-11). Each spiritual gift given is for the common good of the whole. Though there may be people who are envious of another’s gifts, they should earnestly seek God about their own gift and work on developing that gift. 

Unlike the scarf or tie or sweater that is sent through an evolution of hands, God’s gifts cannot be re-gifted by us nor can we return them or exchange them. And why should we? If we believe that “every gift from God is a perfect gift” we should be overjoyed with what we receive. And then, get this–God knows exactly what gift we will function in to develop the Body of Christ into wholeness where every need is met.

When we either refuse to hone the gifts given, or reject the gifts out-of-hand, we are telling God He doesn’t know what He’s doing. Then, there are some who are so envious of the gifts God has given others that they practice to deceive and then declare they have a gift that they manufactured, but Holy Spirit did not give. We can tell who is operating in their own “manufactured gifts” because that person has attached a dollar sign to perform it. That gift–is manufactured for their benefit, not for the perfecting and development of the Body of Christ.

The beauty of God’s gift-giving is in the fact that no matter how we act–“His gifts and callings are without repentance”–He won’t take them back. What happens when we don’t use the gifts He has given is that we truly miss the blessings that come with “obedience” to God and the Body of Christ has a void that can only be filled with the gift we are not using. We all have a role to play in promoting the Gospel, developing unity, and perfection within the Body of Christ–all of the born-again believers–especially within the local Body. Churches that do not have spiritual gifts operating are usually dull and boring and no one is exalted other than the preacher. They are dry and stagnant, critical and judgmental because they chose not to exercise the gifts given or they manufactured a gift that does not glorify God.

I pray today that all will earnestly seek God for understanding of the Gift they have been given and then will exercise that gift to reach the perfection needed to operate in the Body of Christ to bring wholeness. Our spiritual gifts are like our bodies–if we do not exercise the body, muscles become atrophied and lax and we become weak and lazy. The same thing happens when we do not exercise our good and perfect spiritual gift from God–the Body of Christ becomes weak and lazy.

Father, in the name of Jesus, speak to our hearts and help us to understand the gifts given to us and wisdom in using them. Show us how we are to function in the Body of Christ and ignite desire in us to exercise the gift to the development of perfection to fill the void in the Body of Christ.