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Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. Matthew 13:11

Around this time of year, a flurry, well, a blizzard really, of gift-seeking is afoot. The hunt is on. No matter whether your heart is in it or not, shopping is a large part of the Christmas madness. We’ve been conditioned, and we’re good at giving. Truth to tell, it’s our receiving muscle that needs a little work.

Giving is a process which is far more deliberate, and therefore, gives control. It places us in the driver’s seat of the proactive, rather than the reactive, which always wields more power. We plan how and why we want to give; we judge the authentic response. In some ways, giving is a gift we give ourselves, but receiving requires trust.

North Americans in general are far better at giving than receiving. I’m not talking about the entitled expectation that the government or other controlling authorities will take care of us through all perils foreign or domestic, but the personal exchange of a sincere, heartfelt gesture of pure generosity. Unexpected magnanimity can cause a myriad of reactions, some of which, after the astonishment of the moment, are quite uncomfortable. The distrust, suspicion, self-hatred or unworthiness we carry regarding our own unresolved identity issues becomes glaringly obvious.

Have you seen Youtube videos about someone surprised with good news, an engagement or a returning family member and seen the primitive shrieks of joy, burst of tears or extreme physicality that accompanies unbridled reactions? A gift can catch us unawares and strip away the protective layers of psyche for a naked split-second. It forces a decision – to receive or reject, without the insulation of social graces and the leisure to temper emotion. In other words, we are caught flat-footed. When we receive, for a moment, our hearts are opened. Receiving can be perilous.

John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. John 3:27

For the last year or so, I’ve been trying to master the art of passivity before the Lord; to be in a stillness that simply receives whatever He says, does or gives. The Lord is always with us, but our awareness of Him is blocked by the noise of everyday life and our own thoughts. Just try to sit without musing, praying or worshipping for fifteen minutes or so, concentrating on Him alone. Let me assure you, this is amazingly difficult. You only have to wrangle your focus back from wayward thoughts twenty or thirty times. Sitting still without fidgeting is demanding in itself; a quietude I’m still working on. Blotting out peripheral noises hones our ability to hear and welcome His voice. It’s really the practice of opening your heart to the Lord in full confidence for strength, wisdom, healing or revelation.

Everything in our flesh resists not only waiting, but being passive. We should be doing something. Being the disciple that sits at His feet may sound gloriously intimate, but practically, it’s intense. It’s hard to admit we’re needy, even to the Lord. Positioning to receive requires letting go, something else we’re quite poor at. We just can’t seem to remain mentally supine long enough to download the precious divine endowments. Do we even really want them, or are we just too scared?

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22

Simply permitting the Holy Spirit to dominate attention without agenda is a place I’ve grown to treasure. It protects, purifies and propels me. You can actually feel the increase in anointing. While it may be “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), properly accepting the things the Lord spiritually bestows is a learned skill that helps us enjoy the blessings and benefits of each day without suspicion or scruple. It's a maturity that not only provides upgrades, but protects from danger.

When I think about the largest, most lavish or significant gifts I have been given, I have to admit, my response has not always been exemplary. Instead of gratitude, I was actually resentful. In the moment, I did not appreciate the changes forced upon me for my own good. Thankfully, I've learned better. His goodness always makes life sweeter and easier. Open your heart and receive His tender embrace this season.

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the Dear Christ enters in.

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