I was listening to comedian Tim Hawkins' latest rendition of his tribute to Chick-fil-A this week, which led me to revisit other performance clips of this former grocery truck driver from St. Louis. A self-taught guitarist, Hawkins is a singer and songwriter, known for dead-on impressions and clever parodies -- all poking fun at family-friendly topics. "It's not like I have choice. Comedy is my only life skill," he jokes.
In thinking of other talents I admire, I listened to Ginny Owens, a Belmont University graduate and Dove Award winner. Owens is a contemporary Christian singer and songwriter best known for the song, "If You Want Me To," who has been blind since a young age.
I got a lot of joy watching Tim Tebow play college ball. Most fans of the Southeastern Conference have watched the Manning boys grow up -- and grow old.
Serious talent in these folks. You don't have to be especially skilled in football or music to realize the genius of what they 'do' for a living. Lots of folks have talent, but there's a certain anointing on these, a joy, a measure of grace and a dash of favor that elevates their skill beyond the ordinary. It's a little like the difference between a cup of coffee in the morning or a 20-ounce Red Bull.
Usually the words 'talent' and 'gift' are used interchangeably. In faith circles, we talk about talents and gifts a bit differently -- and to be clear, I'm not talking specifically about biblical spiritual gifts.
That said, I've been pursuing my 'calling' for years, like Jacob wrestling with an angel at Peniel, refusing to let go until he received his blessing. "Oh Lord," I pray. "I'm ready. I'm willing." I'm lined up in the slot, ready for the play call, the snap of a ball I can run with.
The Wednesday Night Girls have watched with loving amusement as I have flailed needlessly at the air, crying out, completely failing to see the ethereal neon sign God has posted right in front of me.
During the past year, as people have commented on a story or a column I've written, I've appreciated the compliment, have never doubted their sincerity. But I didn't set out to be a writer in life, and in my mind there's no real skill involved in what I 'do' for a living. (John Carney and David Melson are wordsmiths, plus far more blessed with the gift of Succinct than I -- they have the real sort of talent I envy.)
God has a delightful sense of humor, though, and He's created a continuing theme in my encounters with other people which has finally illustrated His point, even to me. "I really enjoy your columns," someone will say.
If they stopped there, I could chalk the effort up to kindness, then shift the spotlight of conversation on to other topics.
But they don't. They go on to explain how a certain column impacted them, how it lined up with an internal struggle of their own, or answered a question they had been pondering in their own walk of faith.
"I put your column on my refrigerator" -- high praise indeed.
"Your writing blesses me," they say, before adding, "You have a gift."
I'm mentally squirming, even as I type this. I'm not sure why this is hard for me.
C. S. Lewis even got in on the act this week, prompting me on Facebook, "The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. He is the inventor, we are only the machine. He is the painter, we are only the picture" (Mere Christianity).
The talents and gifts of others are patently obvious to me. The friend who prays, the one who sings, the other who serves. I have friends who say, "I'm just a teacher," or "I'm just a stay-at-home mom," but it's easy for me to see how the lives of those around them are blessed by the grace and skill with which they conduct their days.
I am a writer. This is my calling. This is where God has placed me for this time, and this is where He will conduct His work.
I wasn't sure what the neon sign said exactly, I just had a sense that it was there, flashing and humming. Then this quote from Mother Teresa arrived on my desktop, which seemed a message made just for me, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."
I get it, God. I'm content. Let's go.
-- Tracy Simmons is a features writer for the Times-Gazette. She may be reached at (931) 684-1200, ext. 217, or by e-mail at email@example.com.