Posts Tagged ‘Deaconess Litany’

Receiving Others as Gifts: Remembering Their Giftliness (Not Taking People for Granted)



This is the third in my series about “Receiving Others as Gifts.” <– Click the series title to see all posts in the series.

When I first wrote here about the topic of receiving others as gifts I mentioned the potential of the gift analogy breaking down into thinking of others as objects. When we push the gift analogy too far and reduce people to “things” we run the risk of taking other people for granted.

I felt this difficulty with the gift analogy as I wrote the previous two entries as I wrote about the value of others. I never want it to sound like I’m urging us to commodify other people in our lives. People are not objects and we should never treat them as “things” to which we are entitled.

I’d like to take some space here to address pitfalls to avoid in how we think of the “giftliness” of others as it relates to receiving their service and companionship.

Are You Being Served?
In my first post of this series I made the case that we often have trouble receiving service from others—and I stand by that analysis—but there is also another tendency that can threaten our relationships with others. Namely, we run the risk of allowing others to do all the heavy lifting for us.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but I know that for me there is a real danger to sit back and rather enjoy being served—selfishly allowing others to do for me what I could easily do for myself. And I can justify it, you know, just to give the other person the joy of serving!

But when we turn the idea of receiving service into asking or allowing someone else do our every bidding, then we have crossed the line. At that point we are no longer honoring the gift that they are to us, we are using them in the worst sense of the term.

Look Who’s Talking
In last week’s post about companionship I talked about how others can help us through difficult times and how they can encourage our best. The nagging thought came to me that this ran the risk of thinking of relationships in terms of just what we can get out of it.

Again, not speaking for anyone else, but for me personally, I know that I like to talk, I like to be heard. If someone I truly trust is especially willing to listen I am especially willing to pour my heart out. Later, when I recognize it, I feel embarrassed if I didn’t inquire much about the other person or if I talked considerably more than I listened.

We hurt relationships when we only think of our companions in terms of what their support means for us. We miss the sheer giftliness of other people when we use up all our time with them for our own needs.

All Good Gifts
When gifts are so plentiful as are our fellow servants and companions along life’s way, it can take special mindfulness to continue to hold others in high regard. If we’re not careful, we too easily go the way of the child in anticipation of a birthday who forgets manners in anticipation of the presents he expects.

And so, for all I have said so far and will continue to say about the gift that others are, as with all good gifts we do well not to take them for granted.

Read all the posts in the Receiving Others as Gifts series:

Introducing a New Series on Receiving Others as Gifts

20131206-163719.jpgI wrote a post in December based on a portion of the Deaconess litany about the idea of receiving others as gifts. I said then that this is a topic that I wanted to write more about.

Then in January, inspired by an old post from my friend, David Housholder, about finding your “life message,” I did some journaling about my own life message. I came up with three parts:

  1. I want to help people know to the core of their being that they are dearly beloved by God in a right-now, no-matter-what way. (I realize now that this is why I love to preach so much.)
  2. I’m passionate about seeing all of God’s gifts unleashed in his created people and I want to support others as they walk boldly in their gifting for the sake of others.
  3. I envision a world where people respect others and receive one another’s ideas & service as gifts. I believe that we need each other, not to control each other but to serve one another.

Notice the third part–there’s that phrase again–about receiving others as gifts. So, as you can see, this kept popping up as a theme.

Meanwhile, I was growing frustrated with the blog here. I mean, I was faithfully posting every Friday, but I felt like I wasn’t being very purposeful about my topics. When I sat down to do some brainstorming about blog topics, once again many of the topics I came up with seemed to relate to the idea of receiving others as gifts!

So all of that is why I am officially starting “Receiving Others as Gifts” as a series here on the blog.

To get an overview of my thinking on this topic, be sure to check out my previous post, Receiving Others as Gifts. I have also created a list of ten topics that will each become a post in the series. Here are those ten topics:

  1. We Need Each Other–Mutually Giving and Receiving
  2. Companionship Over the Long Haul
  3. The Giftliness of Others
  4. The Giftedness of Others
  5. Holy Others Belonging to God
  6. Sanctity of Life
  7. Working Together – Cooperation & Collaboration
  8. Finding Common Ground when Values Compete/Conflict
  9. Honoring Differences in Style, Personality, Approach
  10. Gratitude for & Gracious Reception of One Another

These are subject to change and I may add to the list. But, in general, unless the Spirit moves me otherwise, these topics will be on the blog over the next 10 Fridays.

I have no idea if any of this will make sense outside of my own brain, but it is in me to write it and I need to get it out there. I would love your feedback as this goes along. Please tell me what makes sense and what doesn’t. Let me know what you’d like me to expand on. And, if something rubs you the wrong way, I’d be honored if you would tell me that too.



Read all the posts in the Receiving Others as Gifts series:

Receiving Others as Gifts

Gracious God, who created all humanity in your image:
Make us grateful for the companionship of other people, receiving them as gifts of your grace.

The Deaconess Litany of the Lutheran Deaconess Association

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve written a few posts in the past drawing from the Deaconess Litany of my Deaconess community. It is an extended prayer that we traditionally pray on Monday nights. The remarkable thing about well-written prayers like this is the way they can work into our hearts and minds and actually be a part of forming us as God’s people.

20131206-163719.jpgThe portion of the litany quoted above has been just such a formational prayer for me. This idea of receiving others as gifts of God’s grace has worked its way into the very fabric of my being. I want to share with you a few of implications of this that have emerged for me and one reservation I have about it:

  1. Receiving others as gifts of grace means that we don’t take them for granted. Gifts are not things to which we are entitled, in fact, they are often unmerited and unexpected. Approaching our relationships in this way leaves us open to the ways that others can surprise us.
  2. Receiving others as gifts doesn’t have to mean we “like” everything they do or say. Just as we coach children to say “thank you” when they get a gift from a loved one whether they like it or not, so we too can graciously receive other people in our lives.
  3. Receiving others as gifts of God signals that they are holy others as they are from our divine creator. The sacredness with which we hold their lives and the honor we show them are necessitated by the reality that they are God’s.
  4. One reservation that I have about this prayer is the potential of the “gift” analogy to be taken too literally, as if others are mere objects. (See my previous post about teaching children that people are not objects.)

This idea of receiving others as a gift is emerging for a theme for me as I live out my faith. I’m still processing all of this, but I’m seeing connections among the types of books and ministries to which I have been drawn over the years and it seems to come back again and again to this idea. I hope to be able to write more about this as time goes on.

For now, please know that you are a gift to me. Thank you for reading!

Please connect with me either in the comments below, by e-mail at livingfaithjct (AT) gmail (DOT) com or on Facebook or Twitter (see the green buttons on the page); I love hearing from you!

Read other posts of mine about others as gifts:

The More Different We Are, The More We Need Each Other

Shutdown as Opportunity

Shrinking, Shirking and Shutting Down

20130726-181414.jpgSo this whole self-image and self-importance thing has been a theme here lately on the blog. What I thought was going to be a simple post about a little snippet of The Deaconess Litany has turned into a mini-series complete with lots of my own drama.

Dana Hanson, one of my fellow contributors at Life and Liberty had a sermon about “Self-Forgetfulness” that made me really wish I could get myself out of my own way! (Have I mentioned what an extraordinary tribe it is that I’ve found there?) But I’m not quite able to forget myself just yet.

I gotta keep writing about this stuff because it is exactly what God is doing in my life right now. And working through this is part of how I am living out my faith (which, of course is the tagline of this very site). Also, I think that awareness and mindfull release of unhealthy self-focus is better than pretending I’ve already got this figured out.

So far I’ve shared about my desire for fame and glory (that bit from The Deaconess Litany about thinking too highly of myself). But I haven’t said as much about the other side of me that wants to hide, to shrink away from what God has called me to do.

The Deaconess Litany requests “the mind of Christ” that we not “deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.” The temptation to dismiss my own gifts has been all too great over the years.

I’ve found myself relegating my creativity to paper crafts that hardly anyone sees instead of putting words on paper to share as widely as possible as God put on my heart in high school.

I have kept many of my ideas quiet instead of using the speaking ability that God has given me.

Why? Because I didn’t think it mattered. I didn’t think I mattered. What good is it to write if nobody wants to read it? What good is it to speak if nobody wants to hear it?

In a lot of ways, I just shut down. I shirked my calling because I decided for the world that my voice was better off muted.

A funny thing happens when you don’t write or speak, nobody knows that you have something to say. And if you’re not saying it, they’re not listening because there’s nothing to hear!

It is only in daring to share that you can have any sense of whether what you want to say matters. So for my lost years when I was busy hiding and assuming nobody cares, I was getting zero actual feedback.

There may have been a time or two that I tried to pipe up but was given a gag order. But to universalize that negative feedback was to do myself and my gifts a disservice. And ultimately to not do what God was calling me to, was indeed an act of “unbelief.” I was “calling common” or unimportant what God had already blessed and set before me.

So then, if I am walking with God, submitting my will and my ego to Jesus, and praying in the Spirit that other people will hear the Gospel through me, maybe I will indeed soon forget myself after all!

Thanks be to God!

What about you? Are there things that you feel drawn by God to do, but you’re dragging your feet? What is holding you back?

Sifting Out Selfish Pride

photoI recently posted about my own vacillation between longing for greatness and totally dismissing my own worth. In that post, I promised I would write more about how “the mind Christ” can help us avoid these extremes. But before I do that I want to go a little deeper into the struggle.

I was afraid I would scare everyone away with admitting how my pride tends to puff me up. Instead, I was amazingly encouraged by comments here and on Facebook, and by private contacts from close family and friends. I don’t take that encouragement lightly.

I don’t want to let that encouragement give me an excuse to cover up the ugly pride that is in me. Instead, I want to lean into the support I’ve been offered. I want to put my longing for greatness under a little more scrutiny. I want to sift the good intentions from the selfish pride.

Sifting Through the Feedback

Some of the feedback was from folks who seemed to resonate with the pendulum between thinking too highly and thinking too lowly of ourselves. So, I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes back and forth! I was relieved to know that other people seemed to understand the need to hold both extremes in check.

Much of the feedback I got was more directly related to my longing for greatness. One person related the idea of “greatness” to a quest for excellence. I thought that was brilliant! I admire people that have that drive. I kind-of wish I could say that is what my desire for greatness is about.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intentions of trying to get by with poor writing or half-baked speeches. I want to do well what I do, but that is a matter of integrity for me and I don’t think it quite relates to my urge for greatness. It may for some people be their drive to be “great,” but that’s not primarily what this is about for me.

Another angle of feedback from multiple sources was the acknowledgment of the mixed motives involved in wanting to be great. Folks were extraordinarily gracious in pointing out that there are some good reasons to want to be great–like the opportunity to touch more people’s lives.

That is part of why I want to be “great.” I want to write and speak in order to help other people. I want to make my story available to others so they can be encouraged. The more well-known I am, the more people I can reach with what I write and say. This is true, but there is more to it than that.

The Zinger

One of the bits of feedback I got was from David Housholder and he said simply, “Make the big time where you are” and provided a link to reflections about and recordings of his college football coach, Frosty Westering. I popped over to Housholder’s site and listened to his podcast about his coach and part of an interview with Coach Westering’s own voice. I urge you to go listen too.

Coach Westering was as much about building character as he was about coaching football. Coach Westering’s advice to “Make the big time where you are,” was essentially to not worry about how well-known you are, but to do great things wherever you are in life in whatever tasks are before you.

And that was it. Right there!

So much of my longing for greatness is I want to be well-known, I want to be famous! It is hard to be content with the right-here, right-now being my “big time.” It is wicked hard. Making the big time where I am? Where’s the glory, my glory, in that?

There it is, the ugly nugget that needs sifted out: my selfish desire for my own glory.

Of course I have good motives, but that self-serving desire for greatness sometimes takes on a life of it’s own. I don’t want it to take over. I want the good and right motives to take their proper place. I want to make the big time where I am.

But that nugget, it’s a heavy one…and there are parts of it that are kind-of shiny. It’s not an easy one to cast aside, my friends. Which of course, is all the more reason to write about it. And it is all the more reason why I need the mind of Christ.

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