by Terry Camsey, Major –
I remember well when, as a young teenager, I was first allowed to play in the senior band at the corps in which I grew up. I was 14 and had just been commissioned a senior soldier. As there were several of us transferring from the junior band at that time, playing in the senior band was conditional on also playing in the junior band until we reached age 17. We
didn’t mind…the more “blowing” the better!
(We had, at that time, a great junior band capable of playing music that the senior band couldn’t handle. We were keen to improve and did individual practice faithfully every day.)
It was a surprise, however, to see that on both Sundays and senior band practice night, a number of the senior bandsmen would retrieve their instruments from their storage closet…fulfill their playing obligation…then return the instruments back to the closet afterwards.
I was amazed that their playing was so consistent until, after a while, I realized that it was not improving. They were, at best, maintaining the level of skill achieved—at worst, losing it!
That experience popped into my mind as my thoughts were already turning to the approaching Thanksgiving season and convinced me there was a thought here worth exploring.
During Thanksgiving, we give thanks for gifts God has blessed us with over the past year…health, food, friends, family, etc. But God has blessed us with other gifts just as tangible yet, perhaps, hardly recognized during this special season.
I talk not only of spiritual gifts, distributed to the saved by the Holy Spirit, but of so-called “natural” talents and abilities that each of us has—whether we recognize the Giver or not—been blessed with. For me, such talents have included making music by playing a cornet. I am grateful for the gift, but feel an ongoing need to express my thanks more tangibly than through words alone. I really thank God for the gift as I accept it and hone it, through practice, until I can offer it back to God…“with interest.”
To accept and thank, without developing the gift to the best of my ability, would put me in the category of the servant who (in the parable of the talents) hid in the ground the gift he received from the Master. When asked to demonstrate what he had done with the gift, he could show no gain. Now, those three stewards were each given the same gift—albeit in unequal measure—and each steward had the same amount of time in which to enlarge that given to him. Two made the effort, the third made none.
Can you see how this resonates with my experience when I joined the senior band? Those who put the instruments back in the closet were not totally reprehensible stewards…after all, they did at least take out the instruments and play on them regularly, albeit briefly. Also, they were not as guilty as they might have been had they never taken up the instruments and played them. On the other hand, they were not as thankful for the gift as they might have been, else they would have honed it through regular practice and handed it back, sparkling, to God.
Can you imagine the impact if the talents of every member of every congregation were to be deliberately discovered, dusted off, developed and dynamically applied in ministry?
Years ago, we used to sing “Anything for Jesus.” The song was frequently misinterpreted to suggest that, for some, anything will do for Jesus. In our present Song Book we have the chorus, “I give Thee my best, nothing less” (CS #41). The choice is, of course, ours.
There’s more to giving thanks than merely acknowledging the gift,
wouldn’t you say?
At this Thanksgiving season, I hope and pray that no one will have failed to truly thank God for talent given (whatever it is) through neglecting its development and use to glorify the giver.