Use your gifts to light up someone’s dark

Trevor attended my church’s youth group. No fan of boys, I paid no attention to him at first. But one evening he sat down at the piano in the rec hall. His long fingers trickled over the ivories like a rushing stream. He had no music. He didn’t look down, just kept talking to those who’d gathered round, singing and making requests. Soon he became the most popular among us.  

Trevor had a gift. Even as a teenager, he freely shared it. We loved him for that.

Ever since, I’ve adored live music. Fingers stroking keys. Plucking strings. Pressing valves. Hands and sticks slapping skins, breath blowing through holes. Gifts developed. Gifts shared. Gifts joyfully received.

COVID-19 restrictions have curtailed, even killed many joys. But the pandemic has also allowed countless artists, including musicians, to share their gifts in beautiful, creative ways. The Preacher and I have enjoyed virtual and home concerts from people like Dino, the Gettys, Andrew Lloyd Weber and many others.

They offer their music not for profit, but for the love of making and sharing it. They remind me  that a gift not used is a gift abused. It’s why I keep writing this column. Why the Preacher keeps preaching, and why Marta Becket, dancer of the Death Valley desert, kept dancing, even when no one showed up to watch. (One day I’ll write about that remarkable woman.)

From some musical artists, as it did with Trevor, music seems to flow from some inner fountain. A great memory and the instinctual gift of playing by ear, both developed through years of practice, make that possible. I saw those same gifts in our children, and now growing in our grandchildren. After years of study under excellent (and also gifted) teachers, I’m astounded by their skill. That they also share them with others fills me with joy.  

Yesterday, as I sat at my computer at work, the funeral of former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner played in the background. I had my back to the screen until a beloved voice, singing a beloved song, surprised me.

That’s gotta be John, I thought, turning in my seat. Sure enough. The camera focussed for a moment only on the snow-white head of Canadian tenor, John MacDermott. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”

John’s God-given gift has cheered millions around the world. Through his music and an article I wrote about him years ago, he has also become a friend. We don’t communicate often, but I fired off a quick email, thanking him for the beautiful moment of surprise and remembrance. He responded with gratitude.

1 Peter 4:10 reminds us that God gives everyone gifts—not to keep, but to give away. To serve others, as demonstrations of Divine grace.

What are your gifts? In these days, when fear and perplexity threaten, may I encourage you to use them to bless others?

A green thumb can also be a gift… the blessing of homegrown-grown flowers brings delight to recipients