Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gifts: Receiving three gifts

Image from Homemaking blog.

There are three different Christmas gifts I'd like to tell you about today. One was a mystery, another was unexpectedly good, and the third was good - but spoiled by my sneaking to see it too soon.

If you could have one amazing thing for Christmas this year. what would you ask for?

I suppose if I could ask for something besides something ideal like world peace - that was purely for the fun of it I'd ask for a full supply of paints, canvas and new paint brushes as well as the time I'd like to spend working on various art projects.

Question to ponder:

What did you say you'd like to have and why? What about this thing makes it so desirable to have?
Mystery Gift:

One Christmas morning, a long time ago in a land not so far away, I walked down to the living room to find a large shiny box under the twinkling tree that had my name on it. The gift wasn't from my parents or grandparents or a close friend - the gift was from my big brother! Now my brother is seven years older than me, and you might have said that sometimes we didn't really see eye to eye. He was home from college and working in a factory job, and I was a sometimes giddy middle school girl.Since he's come home from school, my brother was about the business of living out a grown-up life and some days I'd remember thinking he had gotten kind of serious and old a little too fast for my liking. Not that long before, he was a prankster who loved practical jokes and fun. He tended to be tricky in his gift giving and disguise his real gift by adding several layers of wrapping, boxes, marbles, and coins. He loved to see a person try to guess what he'd given them. Usually, the gift was small - like a pair of winter gloves, earrings or a paperback book I'd been wanting to read. The gift he usually gave would take second place to the prank-like way he'd present it. But considering his recent seriousness, he was really difficult to read this year.

I rattled and shook the box trying to decipher the real item inside. This time I did not hear any odd rattles or rolling marbles. Could it be that my brother had FINALLY given me a really good gift?
Question to ponder:

Can you remember a REALLY good gift that you have received? (Take a minute to think about what made it so good - what did you love about it? Why would you say this was a good gift and another would not be?)
After all the time I'd wondered about the gift my brother had given to me, the moment of truth arrived. It was time to open the box.

I pulled at the shiny foil paper to find another layer of wrapping paper directly underneath. Was it possible that my brother had pulled yet another prank on me this Christmas?

Question to ponder:

What is a gift that you thought you were going to get, but when you opened it - it turned out to be something entirely different? How did it feel to have things turn out differently than you expected?
Unexpected good:

A Christmas or so before this one with the mystery gift from my brother, my Grandmother had sent me a present for a birthday. I ripped open the package to find a colorful children's book of rhymes and poems. I don't remember what I'd expected to get, but I remember wondering why my Grandmother had given me something that most definitely was for a child - and not of course for someone as mature as me at the ripe old age of eleven.

While I tried to hide my disappointment with the gift, it was obvious that I was not impressed by reaching for the next gift as if to say, "Oh that a silly gift - I'm moving on to something bigger and better - NEXT!"

The thing I find interesting to this day, is that the only gift I remember from that birthday is the one that I thought was beneath me. Over time, the toys and game I received broke or I got bored with - and somehow the colorful pages of that poetry book kept drawing my attention and interest. Isn't it funny that this gift I thought was silly and childish, turned out to be one of my favorite things from my youth?
Question to ponder:

Some gifts are surprising for what they are or when they are given. Do you prefer getting a gift when you expect it or being surprised?
Spoiled good:

One other holiday season, I was really impatient for Christmas to arrive. No matter how I tried, I could not stand the thought of waiting for Christmas morning for the presents from my parents. As they would shop, I'd take note of the fact and when they were busy, I'd quietly sneak into my Mom's room and open the closet to take a peek at what was being stored inside.

While at first it was thrilling to seek and find what gifts were waiting for me inside that closet, I had no idea how I was draining the excitement out of the good gifts reserved for me on Christmas morning. The things I found in the closet were good gifts, but because I was in a big rush to have them the joy in receiving them was gone when I opened them on Christmas morning.

There are three gifts from my youth that I've told about so far: the mystery gift from my big brother, the children's poetry book from my Grandmother and the many good gifts the Christmas I peeked ahead of time - only to spoil the excitement of Christmas morning.

All of these gifts are ones I'd now say were good and each one has a special place in my memory. One of the reasons they are remembered is that they remind me of the people that gave them and how we are connected.

In this series on gifts, I'd like to think and unpack the kinds of gifts from God gives. God also has a way of giving mystery, unexpected good, and spoiled if we open too soon gifts.

It is important to remember the God given gifts we have received, identifying the gifts God has given and seeking and finding ways (without spoiling them) to use the gifts God has given to us. Just like the physical Christmas gifts I've told you about connected me to the givers; the gifts God gives help me feel closer and more connected to God.

The mystery gift from my brother was one that held great meaning to me, once the time had come to receive it. The book from my Grandmother gain in value over time when I let go of the misplaced expectations I was holding on to, the previewed Christmas gifts became a reminder of the need to honor the giver over the gifts they offer.

God gives good gifts, but are we in a place where we can receive them? In order to receive something, our hands and hearts need to be open. When we allow that space God is faithful to to greater gifts than we can imagine.

PS. The gift my brother gave me that Christmas did turn out to be something good. He had worked very hard in that factory and saved enough money to buy me a stereo and the album by the Police called "Synchronicity", that was very popular at the time. To this day, I still remember the joy and excitement of opening and find a good gift where I expected to find a prank. If big brothers can give good gifts - how much greater gifts can God give to all his children?

Scriptures to help unwrap the questions:

Matthew 7:9-11 - “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

James 1:17 NIV
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

"What kind of good gifts does God give?"
What is the best gift you've ever been given?
Can you describe a heavenly gift (gift from God)?

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