Next time you’re sitting around bored, consider your gifts and what you can do with them.

I ain’t here to preach or proselytize, but the Episcopal Church’s “Meaning of Gifts” gives us a pretty handy list of common gifts to look for and, once found, develop and put into meaningful action (the list, as acknowledged by the Church, is by no means complete).

  1. The gift of teaching
  2. The gift of encouragement
  3. The gift of mercy
  4. The gift of helps
  5. The gift of administration
  6. The gift of giving
  7. The gift of leadership
  8. The gift of evangelism
  9. The gift of discernment
  10. The gift of faith
  11. The gift of healing
  12. The gift of intercession
  13. The gift of hospitality

Gifts, I think, are kind of like a knack for music or languages–everybody has it, to one degree or another.  The harder you work at it, the better you get at it.

John Milton said “I cannot praise a cloistered virtue,” meaning that you might harbor the gift of hospitality (for example), but if you don’t get off your arse and do something with it, it’s a big waste.  Not turning a gift into an action is worse than just a waste, really–it’s downright vain and sinful (I think).

Humility is one of the Three Graces, which, in a master-stroke of theology vs. math, handily defeat the Seven Deadly Sins.  “Humility,” though, doesn’t mean acting like Uriah Heep–not in this sense, anyway.  It means being honest about both your strengths and your weaknesses.  ‘Fess up to your faults, but don’t hide or minimize your gifts.  Be open with all of it.

The rest of the Three Graces, in case you’re wondering, are fortitude and justice.  Seems to me that if you can nail the Three Graces, the Seven Deadlies don’t have a prayer–especially pride, which is the King Kat Daddy-O of sins (look at what it did to Oedipus and all them other farty Greek maroons).  If you can look pride in the eye, laugh, and go back to maximizing your gifts, you’re one bad-ass mofo–in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong–I don’t, by any means, have a grip on this Gifts Defeating the Forces of Sin bidness.  I’m at least as sinful as the next guy; probably moreso.  I’ve spent a good hunk of my life as a rat-fink.  Not in the criminal sense:  I’ve never beaten anyone up, fired a gun, dabbled in drug sales, gotten high as a kite, skipped out on child support, blown up a bus, or any of the other things that usually put people in the pokey.  I have, however, filled my tub with sin and taken a nice, long soak.

Lucky for me, crime and sin aren’t exactly the same.  If sinning got met with jail-time, I’d be in some serious dutch.

Hey, wait a minute.  Isn’t an eternity–or even just a weekend–in hell a lot worse than a month or a year in jail?

You might not believe in hell.  Most Americans don’t (it’s kind of funny–most people believe in heaven, but not hell.  That tells you something, don’t it?).  I kind of agree with Sartre, that “hell is other people,” but that’s a pretty sassy-pants response to a serious issue.  Once again, I call upon Milton:  “Myself am hell,” as Satan said.  You’re your own hell–unless you dodge that bunker and rewrite Satan’s pithy statement as “Myself am heaven.”  The way to do that?  Exercise your gifts.

You might not wind up wearing a winged toga and sitting on a cloud, playing a harp in heaven.  You might just get eaten by worms and that’s that (how would I know?).

But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that deploying your gifts will make you happy and give you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment–even if you just wind up as compost, at least you’ve made the most of a short ride.