What if it is all gift?

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I love gifts. I love giving them and I love receiving them. ‘Gifts’ are one of my top ‘love languages’. Unnecessary, they are given in love to bring delight, to show favour. They are usually above and beyond what we need or deserve, given ‘just because’.

Just recently I have been thinking about the idea that God chose to create, not because He had to, but because He wanted to. He made a beautiful world, affirming its goodness over and over again. Then He made us, and gave it to us to live in, to enjoy with Him. While I do not want to overlook the pain and brokenness that entered our human existence through our collective turning from God, I think that, this side of the cross, we are perhaps even in a better position to understand our lives as gift.

The story began as gift and ends as gift, John tells us that “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” (John 1:16). God chose to create, He chose to call Abraham, He chose rescue Israel, He chose to send Jesus. And He chooses to work in us, inviting us into fullness of life (John 10:10). What if we lived into this? What if our lives were a place where we received “Every good and perfect gift [as] from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 ‘is’ to ‘as’ – my editorial change)?

Sometimes there will be a painful tension here, I realise that. The brokenness of life ‘under the sun’ (a la Ecclesiastes) is real, so real in fact that God dealt with it fully and finally in Jesus. He knows and deeply feels our hurts, showing us by giving us Himself.

The problem of pain aside (while still wanting to acknowledge its weight), receiving a gift well actually forces our focus to shift. It involves humility, gratitude and it usually results in joy. Hands out, we open ourselves to the giver. Thanks on our lips, we slow down, stilling ourself to appreciate the moment. Delight bubbles up, not just in the gift, lovely as it maybe, but in the way it points us to the one who has given it. In recognition of their kindness toward us, their care for us.

If we received our times and our days like this, if I received my times and my days like this, I think, perhaps I might be on the right track. Because He is my Father and He does indeed give good gifts (Matthew 7:11). I think that there is a lightness to be found here, a joy God is calling us into. Grace upon grace, gift upon gift. Like a child eager for Christmas morning or their birthday, I want to try and live in anticipation of His readiness to gift – I do love presents, after all! What if our everyday-walking-around-lives were shaped by the joy of Love demonstrated in gifts given and received?

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Gifts given

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“… What do you have that you did not receive? … ” (1 Corinthians 4:7b)

Not much really! I have been musing about the idea of sacrament, ceremony and celebration recently. Thinking about the way that God made a good world, full of good things that should remind us to turn our gaze to Him in gratitude. About formalising our thanks in ceremony. About expressing and sharing our thanks in celebration.

I have been thinking about creation and Eucharist, about feasting and joy, about thankfulness. About a good world, about bread. About cake and friends to share it with. About delight and welcome. These are the threads I am beginning to trace as I learn God’s word. I am beginning to see the story about a world made in love, about good gifts given. About a King and a feast, about coming home to dinner. About fullness of life, about joy, not fear. Oh, I want to be able to tell that story. I want to tell it with loaves of bread baked in precious new pots. I want to tell it with Funfetti cake topped with butter cream frosting and sprinkles.  I want to tell it slowly and carefully and with great joy.

The psalmist tells us that “He withholds no good thing …” Psalm 84:11 and I know it to be true. Sometimes the gifts are extra special though. This last week I was given a beautiful blue le Creuset pot, heavy with the hope of bread to break and dinners to share. Newly arrived in Vancouver, only few months ago, I had also been given an preloved Kitchenaid mixer and then, last week, the bowl finally arrived. Talk about stuff being sacred – my heart and my kitchen are full! So I baked in thanks. I baked basic-bread and a party-cake. The stuff of life and the stuff of celebration. I think we need both. We need the reminder that our earthy bodies are nourished both by the earth, and by the One who offers us Himself, the true Bread of Life. And once we have remembered, we need to gather and celebrate His Goodness and His abundant welcome.

Piece of cake, anyone?!

Transition

It has been a slow few months of blogging. A long anticipated season of transition, the last six months have, at times, surprised us. We have both worked far more than we thought we would be able to (and we are very grateful for that!). We have lived with more people than we ever have before, testing out the joys and challenges of ‘living-in-community’. Old friendships have blessed us, and unexpected ones have blossomed. Family, near and far, have been faithful in loving us.

For me, my 3/4 load of Masters of Arts (Food Studies) subjects has given me more to think about; from how to write well (about food) to urban food production, Alice Waters to vegan ideology. With the people, the projects and the day-to-day-doing there has not been much space for processing and posting. It took a while, but as I adjusted to the increased white-noise levels of life, I have (very, very gradually) quietened. It is a trajectory that needs to continue into our new season. Learning to be okay with stillness remains a personal challenge.

Heading to Canada, just the two of us, we imagine life will be quieter. There will be a new course of information to digest, to imbibe and to learn to embody. I hope to keep cooking and making as we go, and perhaps to share something of what I learn. For now, after handing in my final assignment, there is (just a little) space to revisit some thoughts I have had and things I have cooked this semester. Stay tuned!

Feeling full

I’ve been enjoying blogging very much and am delighted that others seem to be interested in similar things to those I love recording and writing about. I have found that the more I think about the blog, the more ideas I want to explore on it! Keeping up with the posts regularly and trying not to lose track of ideas before I have time to post them seems to be my main problem!

Recipes and food photos are fun, but I also want to use this as a forum for exploring what being ‘full’ might mean. Having a dinner with some of my family (both immediate and extended) last night, one of us pushed back and said,
“I’m so full”, to which my uncle replied,
“but of good things!”.

While reflecting on ‘feeling full’ of food at the end of a meal is quite common place, recognising that we do just as readily seek satisfaction and ‘fullness’ in other areas of our lives is possibly less common. I want to be someone who seeks ‘fullness’ in all aspects of life, firstly realising that my deepest needs are filled by the God I follow. He, in His goodness, has blessed me with a full life; full of family who love me and exciting and interesting disciplines like food and textiles to explore.

… the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:23

Where do you go to be filled?