Giving and Receiving

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

For it is in giving that we receive

I went for a walk around town yesterday with Heidi. No matter what street we were on, we were surrounded by flowers – irises, rhododendrons, chives, pansies, azaleas, and dozens more un-named. Lilacs and wisteria scented the breeze, and flocks of clouds chased the sun. Today I stepped downtown with Deena and Jeanne to enjoy eggs, fruit, and coffee at Riverside Cafe. Hanging planters decorated shop doors with living reds, blues, greens, and yellows. In our own yards, vegetables and herbs are thriving, lovely to taste and see. It’s a typical end-of-May in Southcoast, Massachusetts – the everyday miracle I call home.

Giving and receiving are all mixed up together for me. I can’t say which is more fun: giving a present in love or receiving one in love. Each have their unique joy. I aspire to be a grateful giver and a grateful receiver both.

Walking around this morning, it dawned on me that at its best, giving and receiving are garden variety experiences. The seeds I give to the world in love grow beyond themselves, bringing beauty and nourishment in ways I can’t even imagine. The seeds I receive in love (when I’m mature enough to accept them with thanks) just need a little attention to transform my life into Eden.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Giving and Receiving”

  1. How nice–sounds as if the God of abundance is busily at work in you. We have talked about how scarcity often seems to determine our behavior and our giving. When I examine this phrase-“for it is in giving that we receive”–things get curiouser and curiouser. Of course I don’t want to give with the expectation of receiving, do I. Seems to create a hollowness, a shallowness. No-strings-attached giving, on the other hand, creates a depth in which giving becomes catching, cultural, natural, the norm. When this happens I cannot help but receive. Lao-Tzu put it well: “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” I think that’s what comes back to us.
    Thank you, as always, Johnna, for making me think❗️

    1. Thanks, Bill. I love the Lao-Tzu quote. Kindness is so undervalued and so necessary. I will remember this quote when I’m impatient. Peace, Johnna

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