Posts Tagged ‘Series: Receiving Others as Gifts’

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:

Receiving Others as Gifts: Companionship Over the Long Haul


This is the second post in my series on “Receiving Others as Gifts.” Last week I dealt with the give and take of receiving service from one another–and in particular the service of accepting service. This week I’m turning to a more subtle way in which we are gifts to one another and that is through the simple act of companionship. To read all of my posts related to this subject, please click to browse the entries under the tag, Others as Gifts.

Companionship is a hard thing to quantify and all too easy to underestimate. With service we may tend toward grandiosity and may need to learn to accept a little help from others (for more on this, see the previous post, Receiving Others as Gifts: Mutuality in Giving & Receiving). But companionship is so subtle that we don’t always recognize the value of it.

As with service, companionship goes both ways. Just as the previous post dealt with the mutuality of service, that same mutuality applies in the subject of companionship. We both give and receive the companionship of one another.

I think the best way I can talk about companionship is to relate it to my word for 2014, which is “present.” I’ve shared before about some of the challenges I’ve had with depression and anxiety as well as my tendency toward introversion–all of which make it take effort to to show up and be present with other people.

What has been remarkable to me are the times when I get props for doing just that and I find that just by showing up I can be a blessing to others. I don’t always understand how that can be, but somehow people are glad that I’m there!

When I think about it though, I know that when I go to a committee meeting and a member is missing, it’s just not the same. And when I teach a class and a student is absent, the dynamic is different.

We matter to each other–just by showing up and being ourselves! Apart from any particular thing that we do, we are immeasurably valuable.

I’m fond of the observation I once heard that we are human beings, not human doings. We can be a blessing to one another just by being together along life’s way.

Companionship over the long haul is so important. Life has so many ups and downs and it is so great to have people with us through it all in good times and bad times (cue Dion Warwick & Friends).

Having people with us makes the ups that much more joyous and the downs that much more bearable. Our companions along life’s way often help to bring out our brightest and best. In some cases they may even bolster us and keep us from sinking as low as we might otherwise.

Again, companionship isn’t something we can quantify and it’s not about what we do. It is about being ourselves and being with one another.

It is easy to overlook the value of those who are there for us and unfortunately sometimes we don’t realize it until they’re not there. So, this is my call to take stock of the gift that we are to each other just by showing up in each others’ lives.


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

Receiving Others as Gifts: Mutuality in Giving & Receiving


This is the first post in my new series about “Receiving Others as Gifts.” For background to this series, please read the introduction from last week: Introducing a New Series on Receiving Others as Gifts. To see all of my blog posts related to this subject, check out the tag: Others as Gifts.

I love the Kenneth Bailey video on footwashing that I posted back in November. I love everything about that video really. But most especially meaningful to me was how he made the case for how radical footwashing is and then how he lifted out the verse about how we ought to wash one anothers’ feet!

Bailey talked about the power dynamics at play when service is rendered. The idea was that service as we are called to is often from a position of power–the one has something the other needs–the giver is the one with the power.

Bailey rightly points out the danger of using service as a power play.

The way to guard against the power dynamics getting out of hand , then, is to wash one anothers’ feet–for each one to take turns both giving service to and receiving service from one another.

When it comes to receiving others as gifts, I think this idea of mutual giving & receiving is really important. The temptation to always be the one giving is great in our busy world.

We don’t want someone else to be put out. And we certainly don’t want to feel like we owe someone for some service they’ve rendered!

No, we’d rather be the ones doing the giving, doing the serving, doing that thing that puts someone else in our debt. Oh, of course, we don’t expect them to repay us–but that only heightens the sense of indebtedness that the one served may feel.

The most profound act of service we can render is to receive service from another, to lay down our need to be large and in charge and to humble ourselves enough to allow another to be or do for us something that we cannot do or be on our own.

Admitting that we can’t be all things to all people is often scary. To own our limitations and our neediness is not comfortable or automatic. It is a deliberate choice to drop our sense of superiority, to drop our self-centeredness, and to allow someone else to be greater or more central to us than we’d like.

Another feature of that Bailey video mentioned above is he calls attention to the bond that is formed when service is given and received. The two parties are brought into closer relationship by the service given and received.

We can choose to decline the service offered to us–I mean, we may not always need what is offered at exactly the time and place it is being offered. But to decline the service of others is to distance ourselves from those offering it.

We may have our reasons to decline, but it is wise to be aware of the cost. If we continually deny others the opportunity to serve us we may find ourselves in total isolation.

We may end up so far removed from others as to have no meaningful, sustaining community on which to rely when we eventually realize that we need it.

Plus, if we allow ourselves to become isolated by refusing to be served, then we’ll have no one left who needs or relies on us! Our own best service will be useless if we have no one close enough to us to receive what we have to offer.

I’m convinced that we need each other in this life. We need the gifts and service of others and they need ours too. This mutual giving and receiving is part of God’s original intent for us and Jesus affirms it.

May we be blessed by and be a blessing to others through our serving one another.


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:

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