In 2008, I made some pesto for the ladies Christmas dinner at our church. I signed up to host a table for eight ladies, decorating it with china and pretty glasses with a themed centerpiece and other beautiful items. We also could bring appetizers, candy or munchies for those people to snack on before the dinner was served. I provided pesto, olives, cheese and crackers. The ladies loved it. And when the entrée was served (which was some type of roasted meat with a side sauce and vegetable), the ladies ignored the sauce and reached for my pesto instead. I laughed then and still do today at that simple sweet memory.
Many other times in my life, I have made and brought pesto to various functions. It has always been a hit with people asking for the recipe, while they’re licking the bowl for the last remains. I have a basic recipe, but sometimes I change the amount of ingredients or even add a few different ones based on what I have available in my home, but still people eat every bite of it. It is something that simply happens and I can’t explain. It’s something I naturally do well with little effort but it makes a huge impact on people’s lives. Not that it feeds a starving nation, but rather it creates a welcoming atmosphere with touches of “someone did this FOR ME”… whether you are sisters or strangers.
I wish I could say that my whole life of using my faith and gifts was just as easy and pleasant, but if truth be told, I have had quite a few times of frustration and tears. Simply because I was either trying to do something other than what God told me, or I was trying to do it in my own way. After many years of wasted time and emotions, I have learned the simple phrase of PROMPT OBEDIENCE.
Gideon was another of God’s children that had this same problem. In Judges 6, Gideon pondered God’s request and boldly asked for confirmation and clarity. God responded quickly, but then Gideon stepped back and questioned God’s answer…wrestling with his fear of looking crazy or not fitting in with the norms of society and the way things were done by others. He “tested” God again for confirmation, and again God answered in the exact same way. Gideon then stepped forward in faith and God gave him a HUGE victory, a story to tell that he could not have ever imagined and then told for generations to come.
Jonah was another example. God told him to go to Nineveh. Jonah evaluated the situation but decided to try a different thing…and ended up failing miserably. His fears undermined God’s wisdom and guidance, and he reacted on his feelings instead of simply trusting God. When he repented and stood before God seeking new instructions, God simply reverted back to the one He gave before. God didn’t change His mind and He was still expecting obedience. FULL obedience, not half.
In John chapter 21, Jesus meets with Peter and the disciples. He takes Peter away for a private talk and three times asks, “Peter, do you love Me?” And three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord.” The whole conversation is simply Jesus inviting Peter to focus on the passions that God had put inside of him and for him to be obedient to them for the sake of ministering to other people and spreading the Good News of Christ. Peter wanted to be used and continue the ministry he had walked with Jesus. The instructions were simple, but Peter was trying to do MORE for God instead of just LIVING for God in a manner natural to his personality. God was not trying to take away or lessen anything from Peter, but wanted to use his passions to be more fruitful and equip others for the kingdom.
He does the same for us every day. Sometimes we think too much or are too busy to see it.
Colossians 3:1-2 reminds us to “seek those things above, setting your mind on the right things”…focusing on HIS ways and not allowing any room for worldly opinions or Satan’s discouragement. Grab the gifts that God gives you and don’t back down, no matter how hard or crazy the journey appears.
Deuteronomy 8:17 concurs with “power and strength for profit are NOT in your hands”…but rather in His. We exhaust ourselves trying to accomplish big and complex things, instead of just letting Him direct our time and energies…making huge impacts via our talents and words. John 15:5-6 declares we “can do nothing (of value and fruitfulness) apart from Him!”
Jeremiah 29:11 has always stated that HE “knows the plans for me…plans of good and a hope for the future.” HE knows, not me. And my favorite, 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” What you THINK you can do under His strength and guidance is just a glimpse of what HE can (and will) do! So why not just do what He says?!
When I think of Peter’s story, I think of the three things that God has asked me to do: hug and encourage people, feed people, and tell them about Jesus. Over the years, I’ve discovered that these three simple things are the basic three passions that God has specifically developed within me to accomplish great things for Him. Honestly, many times I have felt that they are not strong, creative, or worldly enough to DO anything for Him. So as a single woman, wife, and young mom, I tried to follow everyone else and do what they were doing, all the fads and popular views at the time and thinking it was in THAT environment that I would find my purpose for my gifts of ministry. And instead, I failed miserably and felt horrible. I was on a roller coaster every day…trying my best to be accepted and appear “normal” but stressing myself out and praying that I would end the day with enough breath left in my body and peace in my soul.
Through those years of following others, I discovered my passions were NOT scrapbooking, gardening, decorating, selling tickets, organizing committee groups, or anything to do with spreadsheets, finance, or technology. It was also not found in modeling my writing and speaking skills in the same manner as other speakers and teachers do. I have learned that Cyndy Gusler (however wacky and wild He has designed me) is just as important and needed as any other ministry speaker. It has taken me 50 years, but I finally feel at peace and no longer care if I am “cool” or doing what people think I should do, but rather what God has purposed me to do…and in the specific way He has asked me to do it. There are days when my human side grimaces and wonders if I heard Him correctly, but then when I take the time to ask Him for discernment and guidance, He always answers…and I must CHOOSE to trust His answer instead of my feelings.
Yes, He has asked me to do three simple things: hug people, feed them and tell them about Jesus.
Three things that I can do happily every day without one ounce of stress or confusion.
So what does this mean in practical terms for me while using my gifts He gave me? Like Peter, what “activities” can I do to “love” Jesus? What “pesto” can I make that will “feed and fulfill” others?
My answer: meeting women, teaching His truth, and writing His words.
Three public things He has asked me to do that may be hard and overwhelming for others, but are exhilarating and joyful for me! Simple things I once believed were “not enough” but now completely trust that they are “expected” BY Him and FOR Him because He designed me this way for a reason. And so as a new season begins in my life as my last child heads to college, and as my plate empties and my time is rerouted, I need to be a Gideon and a Peter. I need to simply OBEY and STEP FORWARD to do what He has asked: to use the provisions He has given me to create an offering to fill hungry souls.
Every day will be different based on the people around me, the topic at hand, and the experiences I have walked through. But every day He will provide everything I need to complete His vision.
Just as easily and naturally as I offer my pesto, every day is a gift to be used by Him. Every day is my choice to obey.
So for me, I will JUST.MAKE.THE.PESTO and not worry or let fear determine my worth or value. I will simply rest in His approval (Galatians 1:10).
His will, His way…nothing more, nothing less, nothing else!
**Are there passions within you that need a stepping stone? Are you wanting to know how to take that first step? Maybe just a hand to hold or an ear to listen…to help you recognize and start your journey?!