The task awaits. Multiple times a year, I’m given the job of wrapping presents. I’ve been wrapping things since I was about 7 years old, although then, the occasions were limited to a present each on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – one year, I wrapped a lamp and gave it to Mom. I remember she was speechless. You don’t score that kind of present just any Mother’s Day. The other time of the year, of course was Christmas, where all seven of us kids gave each other presents, including ones for Mom and Dad. Eight presents, which often included a number of Slinkys and gyroscopes, since they were cheap, and they also were sold in small, square boxes. Perfect for wrapping.
There have been times when the wrapping was a challenge. Besides the lamp, there have been cannisters of goodies, which are easy to wrap in the first step, but trying to make the ends look good is troublesome. Even worse when the wrapping involves a ball of any size – I can tell you right now that the look will be anything but professional. Some folks like to cheat and just wrap the paper all around the ball, and then pull the extra paper all together like you are tying a ponytail. There’s no integrity in that – you have to instead make about 500 little folds on each end, and then lay a piece of tape over it all. Of course, when you do that, it becomes fairly easy to guess, especially if the person had been asking for a bowling ball for their birthday.
Trapezoids, triangles, half-moon shaped, and more all seek to thwart the gift-wrapping exercise, but patience and enough paper will get you through it. I also wish that I had been in on the ground floor of wrapping paper sales. I know my oldest brother went through a hippie time, and once wrapped everyone’s presents in Sunday comics paper, but by and large, my wrapping over the last five decades has been limited to the tried and true, off the shelf, fancy wrapping paper. We used to put bows on the gifts, but when our cat Caesar was part of our family, he had an uncontrollable desire to chew on bows, and when presents were left on the coffee table, he would run amok, shredding and destroying the bows. So, we got away from using those.
I do take issue, however, with one trend that refuses to die. It was invented by a woman, I’m sure, who thought it would look cute, but the method of giftwrapping is to take the item, unwrapped, and put it in the bottom of a fancy colored bag, and then stuff some tissue paper on top. They call it wrapping, but I call it lazy. I’m sorry, but when no tape is used in the wrapping – it’s just bagging, like a bunch of groceries at the store. Have some self-respect. Ditch the bags.
So, today’s work, on this first day of Autumn, involves Aaron’s birthday gifts. Our eldest, and the only birthday that falls in Fall – it became a bit more unusual in basically ordering gifts on his list online this year. I know it’s basically possible to go shopping at the stores, but frankly, I’m not a big fan of masks, and the sheer work of having to go around and try to find things made tapping keys and entering credit card numbers much easier. Still, they come unwrapped. I know I could ask for the wrapped option, but I kind of like to look at the gift-to-be before paper goes on it, just to make sure the item doesn’t turn out to be a box of paper clips or something…
I was going to wrap stuff up this morning, but instead, I just wrapped one simple gift. Our tradition is to give one present to start the day and then the others will come more in evening. With Cheri away at work for the day, Aaron will just have to wait…
There is a true sense of ritual in selecting, and wrapping and giving gifts. First of all, there is an effort to create the setting when you actually give something to someone, especially to celebrate a special event or holiday. The ritual has power, because it says to the one receiving the gift, “I consider you special, and of value in this world, and to me.” With presents piled in front of you, or simply one gift, gently handed to you, the result and the meaning are the same: of everything that exists in this world – this is for you. This has been chosen for you, whether it is something extrinsically valuable, or just something that will mean something to you, and the best you can do is to cherish it, as an intentional act of caring, or even love.
Imagine God’s work of wrapping presents for us. Granted, God doesn’t have to toy with cutting paper to the right size, or putting bits of tape on divine fingers that then will seal a gift. God uses light, and darkness and wind and other people to carry gifts to us each day. These are never accidents, never out of style, and never the wrong fit – they are perfect presents for you! They are surprises, or hoped-for things that come into our lives, but they are never what we have earned, or raised money for. They are meant for each of us, perfectly suited to, and ready for you to open and enjoy as part of living as a child of God in this world.
Try to count the gifts you receive today from God. Don’t forget each breath, each holy thought, each interaction of love to each other. It might be as fun to try to count the gifts you can offer to another, as you serve as the gift wrapping for that special present that is you. Have a great day, and don’t waste the tape…
Word for the Day: hapaxanthous. Pronounced hap-a-ZAN-thus, you can guess it’s Greek by the “x” in the word. It breaks down to hapax, meaning “once,” and antho, meaning “flower.” Simply, it’s a plant that only flowers once and then dies. Some types of palms and even some bamboo may live almost 100 years, and then when it flowers, it dies.
Hapaxanthous’ close personal friend is semelparous, which is a Latin word, pronounced se-MEL-pah-rus, which breaks down to semel, “once,” and parous, “producing offspring.” In this case, the word describes animals, not plants. Examples of things that produce offspring and then die would be cicadas, mayflies, and even Pacific salmon, who make a herculean effort to return to the place of their birth in order to spawn, and then die. Think about that the next time you order the salmon…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.