gift

The Good News of Re-gifting

Photo by  Lina Trochez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Re-gifting has gotten a bad wrap (pun intended) for a while now. I know it is propaganda of the capitalist system that says that you should not give anything to anyone unless you bought it specifically for that person. As though the only possession that is worth giving to someone else are virgin dollars on a new gift. It is silly, but powerful on us. Many of us feel a sense of shame with re-gifting that we would never do it.

The irony is that there is Good News in re-gifting.

Christianity teaches that all things are from God and that humans are stewards of these gifts. We are stewards of money, stewards of natural resources, stewards of animals, and stewards of our sisters and brothers. All that we have is a gift.

As such, anything you give to another is a re-gift. The money you use to buy a “new gift” is a re-gift.

The Good News of re-gifting is that all of life is a gift. And in re-gifting we are reminded of that.

Stop Taking Time

When you attend a clergy session, there is a lot of talk about the need for self care. There are many expressions of self care, but they all are framed the same way. Take time for prayer. Take time to study. Take time to rest. Take time for vacation. Take time for Sabbath. 

We are encouraged to "take time" - which I think might be part of the problem.

"Taking time" assumes that time is zero-sum. If we take time from one area (sermon prep) then we will have less time in another area (pastoral care). The idea of "taking time" assumes that if we don't take it then we will never get it - if we don't take time for prayer then prayer will not happen. "Taking time" gives us the impression that if we only were better at taking time then life would be better. 

Of course, "taking time" is a metaphor. One cannot literally take time like you can take a cookie from the jar, and when we try to take time, we come up short. Rather than using the metaphor of "taking" time, I would remind you that Christianity offers a different metaphor - receiving time. 

Time is a gift that we receive. Time is a gift that we trust will be present when we need it. Time is a gift that we can receive, but we can never take.

When we receive time, time is no longer zero-sum. When we receive time we understand that when we are doing one thing, there will be enough time for other things.

Shifting or metaphor from "taking" to "receiving" is not just semantics, it is a part of our spiritual formation. It is part of the reason I do not take communion

Why I no longer take communion and maybe you should not either

I have taken communion for years. I recall taking communion when I was a child. I recall how I took the bread and took the cup. As I matured in my faith practices I continued to take communion and it was one of the things that drew me to God and my neighbor. 

Then I attended St. Mary's University and was hired as an Ministerial Assistant. Some of my responsibilities included being a Eucharistic minister - that is one who assists in the distribution of communion. I often held the cup while the priest distributed the bread (hosts). While most people came forward for the bread, not as many took the cup. This gave me an opportunity to learn something that changed my world - my peers were trained to receive communion while I was trained to take communion. 

I saw how they came forward with their hands together, palms up and slightly elevated to their chest. It was amazing to see how as the bread (host) was placed in their hands there was an obvious sense of gratitude that came over many of them. With the bread in their hand and their eyes on the cross behind the priest, they would receive communion with eyes closed. 

Since those days in the early 2000's I no longer take communion, I receive it. I no longer reach out and take what is clearly a gift and something that I did not earn. I no longer grab for the bread with an underlying sense that if I don't take it then someone else will. 

This simple change in my posture toward communion has brought with it a deeper understanding and appreciation for the sacrament. While I have not arrived at the level of depth of my college peers those many years ago, I continue to dive deep into this sacred mystery, this holy gift, that we all are invited to receive. 

7-Eleven Christmas

It was a brilliant plan until he tried to open the office building's door. 

His plan was to use his downtown office to stash presents for Christmas so that his children could not find them. He was proud of himself for thinking of this crafty way to hide gifts. Not only did he hide the small "stocking stuffers", but even items too large to hide at home. His office was full of hundreds of dollars worth of gifts held in a sort of Christmas limbo waiting for their arrival under the family Christmas tree. 

After Christmas Eve worship, he tucked his three boys into their beds and waited for them to go to sleep. He then kissed his wife goodbye as he drove to the office with that anticipation that one has when you know the happiness you are about to bring to your children's lives. 

The only hitch in this masterful plan was that his office building was locked for Christmas and there the regular security agent was off duty. His wonderful plan was shattered when he approached the building only to find the door locked and the contracted security agent without keys. 

With all the gifts several stories above his head behind a locked door, his own excitement turned to dread as he scrambled to rectify this situation. It was far too late to call the landlord or his employer. The only call he made was to his wife. 

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and this father got very inventive. 

"Seven eleven logo" by [2] - [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seven_eleven_logo.svg#/media/File:Seven_eleven_logo.svg

"Seven eleven logo" by [2] - [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seven_eleven_logo.svg#/media/File:Seven_eleven_logo.svg

For those of you who do not know, there is a chain of gas stations/corner stores in Fort Worth called "7-Eleven". These stores are open year round usually for patrons who need gas or a famous "slurpee". This fateful Christmas Eve, however, 7-Eleven was Santa's workshop and the overtired employees were elves. 

Like Santa jumping from house to house, this father filled bag after bag of candy, cheap squirt guns, plastic army men, special edition "slurpee" cups and straws and anything else that could pass for a "respectable" Christmas gift. 

A few hours later, the family Christmas tree was covered in 7-Eleven merchandise.

The follow morning, with a sense of regret, the father woke up with a story to explain to his children that these gifts under the tree are nice but the "real gifts" were going to arrive later. When he walked into the family room, he was shocked to see his boys not only playing with the cheap toys, but exclaiming, "How did Santa know I wanted this paddle ball game!" and "This cotton candy in a bag is my favorite!"

In pure amazement this father and mother decided that the 7-Eleven Christmas was more than enough for the boys and they decided to take all the "real gifts" back.