Friday, March 16, 2012

A Place Near Your Altar

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 65 NIV1984 

3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.

It has been roughly thirty years ago that I first met Jesus. There was always and empty place in me that I never seemed to be able to fill until I met Jesus. I came from a family of good and caring people who loved me but did not know Jesus. My mother was more into new age studies and my father a very educated scientist. They were divorced when I was five and I lived with my mother and visited my dad during summers and holidays. Given their backgrounds I had it amazes me that I found Jesus. I remember giving some of the Christians who tried to talk to me about the Lord a lot of grief in college. 

During my third year of college, I was feeling pretty lost and confused and discovered a group of American Sikhs and attended their yoga classes and eventually moved in to their community house. I dressed in white and wore a turban. I took ice cold shower, and got up early for morning yoga and then headed off to classes or worked in the deli of their health food store. There was a woman named Singh Kar who wrote and sang the most beautiful songs. They were kind and gentle people and it did bring a measure of stability to my life. In time however I realized that it had not really filled that empty place and I realized if I stayed much longer a marriage would have been arranged for me. At about the same time I got word that my grandmother was dying of cancer and my aunt desperately needed help. Not being a very secure person at the time I used that as an excuse to leave and had my brother pick up my stuff so I would not have to directly confront the leaders there about my real reasons for leaving. Pretty cowardly in hindsight. At my aunts I often took the night shift caring for my grandmother. She died with in a month or so of me being there. The church my aunt was attending had a summer missions retreat and I was invited to attend it. At the time I was pretty sure I could tune out the preachers and a weekend in the woods would help me figure out what was next.  I guess I did not planing on being so moved by the music group "The Hitches" a family that sang together.  I don't know what the song was but it was about being part of God's family and I felt so alone and so badly wanted to belong to a family. It was enough to cause me to spend more time finding out about this "Jesus and what being part of His family might look like"  It was right around my 21st birthday that I asked Jesus to come into my life and was baptized. In looking back it has been the best decision I ever made. One that I have not regretted in the 30 years of walking with Him.  Psalm 65 :3-5 reminds me that I knew what a mess I was when I came to Jesus. I am so thankful for His forgiveness. I believe he did choose to bring me to live near to his courts. My favorite place for 30 years has been to be in and around his presence, his church and his people.

I like to joke that I must have gypsy blood in me because I have moved every 2-3 years of my entire life. So I have not had the stability of a house or a neighborhood, or people. Those things for me have come and gone. Where my stability has been found, has been in Jesus. No matter where I have gone His people have been there and I have found a place around his courts to call my home. I'm all for breaking that 2-3 year moving trend at this point in my life. I think I have actually found a place that sees and values the gifts that God has given me and has made room for me to fit in and belong. 

Psalm 84: 3
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you. 

For thirty years my life has centered around the Lord and his kingdom. I find it hard to make up resumes because while I have always worked, it has only been to pay the bills my focus has been on working for the kingdom. If you ask for a resume of my ministry experience, that is the one that excites me not that I have been paid for most of it. God has allowed me to do a lot of really cool things through the years. 

Why am I thinking about this today. I think it started with the spiritual gifts test that our pastor gave all of us leaders to take. I've taken it before and had talked to him about how for much of the 30 years I have worked in worship or children's and youth ministry. While we have a need for someone to work in that area - my pastor is pretty solid on that person not being me. My top gifts are Prayer/Intercession, Encouragement and Shepherding/ pastoring they shift in their order a bit each time I have taken it creativity, hospitality, wisdom and tongues are always pretty high on my list. My pastor wisely said to me the other day that I had been doing children's ministry because that was the only place most church's are willing to use women who have a pastoring or shepherding spiritual gift.
I think of the herding dogs that my sister has. They will herd just about anything. They are just wired that way. So I think he has a strong case, my gifts have come out in interesting ways because I have had to find outlets for them in a church culture that could only see men as leaders. 

We are endeavoring to get all of us actually functioning in our areas of gifting. For me I have a lot of strong ministry skills and I may be good at a lot of things but I am having to sort through what I did because it needed done or was simply the only outlet in which my gifts could function as apposed to what I have actually been gifted and called to do.  So it got me thinking about my 30 year journey. I guess I have not been too concerned about what I have done for the Lord as long as I could be in around his courts and his altar.  I have been more about being available and believing that God would help me in what ever task I was given to do.  I think however that I am entering a season of fine tuning and beginning to see God bringing me out from a behind the scenes support roles to one of taking up the mantle of who he has created and called me to be for His glory. 

If you have not taken a spiritual gifts test and are clueless about your gifts and callings. E-mail me and I will be happy to send you the file. (

Dear Lord,
Help us each to discover your unique mix of gifts and talents and to find where we fit in your church and in accomplishing your kingdom purposes. I thank you for your house and I do ever praise you for the place near your altar that you have allowed me to dwell. I know there is plenty of room there and pray for those who have not yet found a place of peace and shelter in your house that they would hear you calling and they would respond and come and find rest for their weary souls.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your testimony and I want you to know it touched my heart very much... keep up your writings so we all can glean something valuable each time we read your blog!!! truly you are a gifted woman for the body of Christ!!!


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