Exchange ‘Something’? [v131]


This past week the stores have been pretty busy processing gift exchanges—with the biggest day of every year being the day after Christmas—exchanging those gifts that you just do not want or need. Perhaps they were the wrong size, the wrong style, the wrong color—or just not your ‘taste’.

Are you one of those ‘giftees’ who keeps a gift—no matter what—often subjecting it to a life of solitude in the back of a closet or a box in the attic? Or, do you gladly exchange for something you’ll ‘love’?  Do you save something that’s “not your thing” for a future “White Elephant” gift exchange, or drop it off at your local “Goodwill” or “Salvation Army” store?

Well, just a month ago, a web site called “Wisebread” (“Living Large on a Small Budget”) wanted to know what their readers thought was acceptable in the world of “gifting.” Here’s the essence of a few responses that were representative of the over 100 responses:

– I will return something that doesn’t fit if a gift receipt was provided.
– I will sell it online or donate it to the local thrift shop.
– It’s silly to keep something out of “principle.”
– I am really easy to please, so I love whatever I get. I am the end of the re-gifting line.
– I would return a gift if they couldn’t find out that I did. I would not want to hurt their feelings.
– If I already had the exact same thing.
– Re-gift it to someone else, or donate it to the church boutique.
– I think it’s rude—returning them for money (or credit) crosses the line.
– Not if it is more hassle to return the gift than it’s worth.
– I return anything that I can’t use.
– I believe it is a slap in the face to the gift giver to return it.
– I will sell it on eBay.
– If the person who gives me a gift, cared enough to “know” about me and come to an informed decision about a gift, I will keep it—knowing the time and effort it took to pick it out for me!
– When my husband and I do re-gift something, we make sure that the original gifter and the re-giftee, have absolutely zero ties!
– I never return gifts. I always accept them politely, and then find something else productive to do with them if I don’t want them—I put them to new uses—like dusters, pillowcases, or kindling!
– On our wedding in 1980, we received a set of bowls that I thought I didn’t care for—yellow nesting Pyrex glass bowls. I didn’t know how to cook, and thought they would only decorate my cabinets. So, 29 years later, I use them daily, and have had jealous comments from friends about my “awesome vintage bowls.” And yes, I have learned to be quite a good cook!

…and this one takes the ‘cake’:

– My husband’s brother (who makes about 20x more per year than my husband and I do) has given us quite a few things they no longer need, and he believes that if a gift is given to you, and you stop using it, it should be returned! My husband made the mistake of telling his brother that we considered ridding ourselves of the “hand-me-down” headboard he gave my husband as a birthday gift a few years ago—because the house we are moving to is far too small for it. His brother actually said, “Well make sure to give me the money after you sell it.” He wasn’t kidding! We decided not to sell it—but “give it” away! [Ed. I guess it wasn’t really a “gift”].

Then, there’s that “restocking fee”—what’s up with that?! Someone gave money to the store—just a few days or weeks ago—and now they don’t want to give it all back to you? I remember a decade ago that “restocking” typically only applied to “opened” items! [Yes, I know, sadly, that there are the fraudulent returns, and that about 5% of the people that use the stores as their personal “wardrobe closet” (buying items, wearing them, and then returning them)].

Then there are the return ‘lines’—warning, be ‘patient’. The “Direct Marketing Association” cites that 65% of the population returns gifts after the holiday!

To top it all off, there’s another ‘component’ to gift exchanging—the social etiquette ‘problem’ that returning a gift brings up—that there’s “unwritten rules” for do it. (That, in my opinion, as was shown in the responses above, are getting a little ‘lax’).

We may differ widely on what makes a good gift, but no matter what we give or receive, most people follow certain unwritten ‘rules’ about gift giving—rules that have been impressed on us (at least me) since childhood:

– The gift must be a surprise—therefore, kept a secret
– The gift should be something that the person wants (or at least needs)
– Never, ever leave the price tag on the gift—that’s very bad taste

…and the one that was ‘burned’ into my brain when I was a kid:

– Graciously receive any gift that is given to you. Smile and say thank you. And never, ever say you don’t like the gift they gave you. To do so is to deeply insult the giver.

Then, why return something? Don’t you feel you are ‘dissing’ the person that spent a bit of time and effort—and cash—to get it, wrap it, and get it to you? So then, why do you spend your ‘valuable’ time exchanging it for something else? To get what you want? What YOU VALUE?

Well, during this ‘season’ of the year, I tend to think of another “exchange”—a ‘spiritual’ one—one that happens when a person is “regenerated,” and exchanges ‘spiritual death’ with eternal ‘spiritual life’.

You might be thinking, “Wow, that was a ‘mouthful’.” “What is being exchanged—and for what? Where does this exchange take place? Will it affect my psychological reality? When does such an exchange transpire? Is it a singular point in time, or is it a progressive process? How do I facilitate this exchange? What do I have to do?”

Well, essentially, it is a very simple ‘act’—just putting your trust in the fact that Jesus Christ has ‘exchanged’ His life to be YOUR ‘PAYMENT’ for all the sins you have committed, and all the sins you will commit—and in doing so, you are GIFTED eternal life with God! It’s been called being “born again”—and in my opinion, the MOST IMPORTANT DECISION you will ever make here on earth!

This is something that will TOTALLY TRANSFORM your life—and in many ways:

– You are given a “new heart” [Ezekiel 36:26]
– You have “newness of life” [Romans 6:4]
– You have become a “new creation” [Galatians 6:15]
– You are “lacking nothing” spiritually [Colossians 2:10]
– You will have a “more abundant” life [2 Peter 1:3]
– You have become a “new creature” [2 Corinthians 5:17]
– You now know “God’s ways” [Hebrews 3:10]
– You are ‘gifted’ a divine character that includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!
[Galatians 5:22-23]

All this is explained in “layman’s language” on a web site that I was the ‘designer’ of called, “The Search for Meaning.” (It discusses the 12 most commonly asked questions about the Christian faith).

The following link will take you directly to a page that will explain, in a bit more detail, about the “PAYMENT” that Jesus paid for us, the “PARDON” we are all offered, and how to RECEIVE the ‘gift’ Jesus is offering (It will take you 5-10 minutes, max).

In summation, it can be said that a Christian is no longer “depraved”—rather, they have the Holy Spirit of God indwelling and functioning within them—and a radical SPIRITUAL EXCHANGE has taken place in their spirit, accomplished for them by the “finished work” of Jesus Christ on the cross, when He exclaimed “It is finished” [John 19:30] (“I’ve paid the price; I’ve accomplished the restoration of God in man.”).

Do you have anything that you need to exchange with God today? Is there anything going on that is particularly burdensome? Then God wants to take your burden and exchange it with His presence.

So, take a moment—relinquish your will to God. After all, He can take whatever you give Him and ‘lighten your load’ with His peace, presence, and ‘infilling’!

[Excerpts from: Jim Burns; James A. Fowler; Robert Alley; Dr. Richard P. Bucher]



If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at:

I exchange my weariness for His strength,
I exchange my weakness for His power,
I exchange my darkness for His light,
I exchange my problems for His solutions,
I exchange my burdens for His freedom,
I exchange my frustrations for His peace,
I exchange my turmoil for His calm,
I exchange my hopes for His promises,
I exchange my afflictions for His balm of comfort,
I exchange my questions for His answers,
I exchange my confusion for His knowledge,
I exchange my doubt for His assurance,
I exchange my nothingness for His awesomeness,
I exchange the temporal for the eternal,
I exchange the impossible for the possible,
I exchange my fear for His love.
[Jim Burns – HomeWord]

To the surprise of no one, the United Parcel Service (UPS) informs us that the time before Christmas is their busiest time of the year. We all know the reason. Presents! Exchanging gifts has become synonymous with the Christmas and holiday season. It is a tradition stamped upon the psyche of people everywhere, a cross-cultural phenomenon.

The funny thing about our holiday gift exchange is the unwritten rules. We differ widely on what makes a good gift. But no matter what we give or receive, all people strictly follow certain unwritten rules about gift exchange. Rules that have been impressed on us since childhood.

Such as? Such as “The gift must be a surprise. Therefore keep it a secret.” That one especially applies to gifts to children. Such as “The gift should be something that the person wants (or at least needs).” Such as “Never, ever leave the price tag on the gift–to do so is in very bad taste.” There is no written law about these things. Nonetheless most of us follow these rules as if they were written.

The above rules, however, are not followed by everyone. Adults often tell what they are getting each other before the fact. Many presents are given which are neither needed or wanted. And–yes, it’s true–some people leave the price tags on their gifts, shocking as this may be.

But there is one unwritten rule that is universal. Anyone with an ounce of tact follows it. It’s the unwritten rule which says, “Graciously receive any gift that is given to you. Smile and say thank you. And never, ever try to pay someone for the gift they give you. To do so is to deeply insult the giver.” Every Christmas season, in households across America, this rule is meticulously followed. Smiles and “thank-you’s” warm our homes. Gifts are freely received. No one offers money to the givers.

Then why do we have such a hard applying this rule to the greatest Christmas Gift? Two thousand years ago, God gave the Gift that made Christmas: His only begotten Son, born of a virgin, for the salvation of the world. In this Christ-Child, who would later give His life on the cross for us, God gives completed forgiveness, completed pardon, and completed salvation. All that we needed to do to enter heaven, Christ did by His perfect life and death. And that wonderful, good news is what caused the heavenly hosts to break into chorus above the fields of Bethlehem. Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Son of God Himself, the Savior. In Him, God and sinners are completely reconciled. What a an inexpressible Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

The amazing thing is that God insists upon the same unwritten rule for those who would receive His Christmas Gift. They are to receive Jesus in only one way. They are to receive Him graciously. As sinners who cannot contribute anything to their forgiveness, they are to simply smile and say, “Thank you.” And above all else they are not to try to pay God for His Gift, for this would insult the Giver and forfeit the Gift.

But wait a minute. Who tries to pay God for the gift of Jesus and the forgiveness He brings? Every person who thinks that God will let him into heaven because of his faith in Jesus AND the good works he has done, such as attending mass, saying the rosary, praying, contributing money to the church, going to confession, serving in the church, not hurting others, not lying, not cheating, helping others, etc.. Whoever thinks that doing good and avoiding evil is the reason that God will let you into heaven, has not received the Gift of Jesus properly, has insulted the Giver, and has forfeited that Gift. Every Christian is to do good works. But a Christian doesn’t do good to try to save himself. The Christian believes that Christ has already done that completely on the cross.

That is why the Scriptures say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). There is only one way to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Through faith. What is saving faith? Saving faith is graciously receiving the gift of Jesus. By the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, God offers heaven to as a gift. Saving faith, like that unwritten rule, smiles and says “Thank you, God!”

There is nothing that would make God happier this Christmas, than to have you do the same.
[Dr. Richard P. Bucher]

Giving and receiving gifts is a universal love language. Whatever gift ideas you may have, remember that they need to neither be expensive nor numerous; if your mate resonates with this love language, a sincere gift brings happiness and security to the relationship. It is an effective way to improve one’s emotional health and to show gratitude and appreciation.
[Gary Chapman]

My 17-year-old was on her way to go sledding with friends on a Sunday afternoon. Before she left, I heard her in the garage rummaging around. Silence. Then a call, “Mom, I need help!” There she was on the stepladder, reaching as high as she could into the rafters trying to get her flexible flyer down…but to no avail.

“I’m trying to get the sled down, but I can’t reach it. Will you help me?” Hallelujah… It’s was not often that I got that kind of request from my daughter!

“Here, hop off; I’ll do it for you.” I grinned as I easily did for her what she couldn’t do for herself, sending her on her way with sled in tow!

What a precious picture God gave me that day of the last part of His salvation process:  Someone obeys Him and tells the Good News of salvation to another; that person hears the very words of God through the speaker and believes…and then, that person CALLS on the name of the Lord. Scripture makes it clear that just intellectually agreeing Jesus is the Savior isn’t enough — “even the demons believe…” Certainly, my daughter could have stood all day on that stepladder believing that I was tall enough to help her. But it was only when she ACTED on what she knew to be true, calling out for my help, that she received what she needed, what she couldn’t do on her own.

Real life begins with a personal dependence on Jesus, with calling out to Him to give us what we can never attain ourselves: a right relationship with the God of the Universe through faith in what He did for us on the Cross.
[Elizabeth Cole]

Anthropologist Terry Y. LeVine said it best: “The practice of giving and receiving gifts is so universal it is part of what it means to be human. In virtually every culture, gifts and the events at which they are exchanged are a crucial part of the essential process of creating and maintaining social relationships …”

While December is the biggest gift-giving month of the year around the world, there are endless reasons to give gifts throughout the year: personal gifts for birthdays, weddings, graduations, and holidays, as well as business gifts to say thank you for a job well done, congratulations on a promotion, or I’m sorry for not performing as expected.

The purpose of giving gifts is to bring joy to both the giver and receiver, promote goodwill, and make for a closer relationship. However, if gift-giving goes amiss, there is a risk of making the receiver uncomfortable and creating an unpleasant situation for both sides. To avoid any ill-effects from your gift-giving practices, keep in mind these simple tips:

When You Give:
Be sure of the true purpose of the gift. Beyond saying the gift is for a particular holiday or occasion, think through how well this gift will express your feelings for this person. To figure this out, ask yourself: How much do I really care about this person? How much time, energy, and money am I willing to spend to select just the right gift for him or her? Let the answers guide you throughout this process.

Do your homework about the receiver. Be observant about his or her favorite items, things he or she might need, or things that would be a meaningful expression of your relationship. Try to remember comments about favorite colors, foods, or beverages. As needed, ask someone else who knows the person, explaining that the purpose of your inquiry is to help learn something that will help you select a special gift. I think most people are willing to help with ideas.

Be sensitive to personal and cultural differences. With such a diverse population in our society, it is important to learn something about a person’s ethnic, religious, and cultural practices along with their personal likes and dislikes, before you present a gift. Take time to learn what’s appropriate and what’s not in different communities to gain insights on what a person would or would not appreciate as a gift. For example, giving a bottle of wine to someone who does not drink alcohol could make the receiver less than overjoyed with your gift.

Know when corporate logos are appropriate. Some times a gift with a company logo cheapens its appearance. The best gifts are those without any company logos or promotion on it, especially when given as special thank-you gift. Logo gifts are fine as small tokens and remembrances for meetings held, not generally as the sincerest form of a thank-you gift.

Use simple and elegant wrapping. Japanese-influenced, understated wrapping is best in my mind. Avoid using brightly colored, bold, heavily patterned paper and a lot of brightly colored, fancy bows and ribbons on the package. Use instead, solid stately colors and quality paper with simple ribbon.

Present your gift with style. The best way to present a gift is always beautifully wrapped and in person. And when you do, present your gift held with both your hands as though you are holding it on a silver platter. This ritual is adopted from Asian culture to show the utmost respect and care. In business situations, when sending the gift by messenger or mail, include your business card with the gift, along with a handwritten note on personal note card or stationary.

When You Receive:
Show your appreciation when receiving a gift in person. Always put a smile on your face as a gift is being presented. Receive the gift with both hands (again an influence from the Asian culture). Say thank you along with a brief expression of appreciation.

Let the giver know as soon as possible when a gift has arrived. Make every effort to let the sender know you received a gift sent by mail or messenger (email, fax, or telephone call is fine). Then follow it up by sending the proper thank-you note as soon as possible.

Be sensitive to opening a gift in front of others. Americans typically open gifts as soon as it is received, even in front of an audience and other groups of people. Know that in many countries it is not customary or appropriate to open gifts in front of other people. They are kept to be opened alone. When receiving house gifts, special guest and speaker gifts, be sensitive as to whether you will or will not be encouraged and expected to open it right away.

Know the bottom line. Always, always hand write a thank you note for every gift you receive, no matter what—regardless of whether you like the gift or not, even if you plan to exchange the gift or give it away. Simply said: Sending a thank-you note is the right thing to do.

Give each gift very careful thought when you are shopping. Remember: It is the thought that counts! A perfect gift is something that the recipient will really enjoy and use. A gift related to a person’s interests or hobbies is always appreciated, and it shows that you are listening and paying attention.

– Remove the price tag.
– But try not to damage the gift when you do.
– Wrap the gift.

If you don’t know how to wrap, ask someone to teach you…it’s a valuable skill. If you really can’t wrap, use a gift bag or aluminum foil. But don’t give an unwrapped gift or one in a plain brown bag. Tacky!

Include a card.

– Buy one or make one…but include it inside or taped to the outside of the package.
– Be confident and positive when presenting a gift to someone.
– Do Say: “Happy Birthday!” “Happy Hanukkah!” “Merry Christmas!” “I hope that you like it!” “When I saw it in the store, I thought of you!”
– Don’t Say: “I couldn’t spend very much!” “I didn’t know what to get you!” “You probably already have one of these!” “I know you won’t like this!”

Remember the “STPT” of gift giving:
Selection: What is the relationship between the gift and the recipient? Is it appropriate? Inappropriate gifts: A Smashing Pumpkins CD for Grandma; a Shakespeare collection for a 4-year-old; a motorcycle helmet for someone who doesn’t own a motorcycle; a box of candy for your aunt who owns a candy store; a Britney poster for your minister.

Timing: Give a gift on or before the special day, if possible. That demonstrates your thoughtfulness.

Proportion: What is the relationship between the giver and the recipient? How much time and money did the gift cost? Too much? Not enough?

Taste: A gift should never be offensive or insulting; joke gifts can backfire! Giving a “Bald Joke Book” to your hairless uncle might not be too cool if Uncle Frank is in a bad mood when he receives it! Gift-giving is an opportunity to be nice and kind!

Receiving and Accepting Gifts:
There are only two appropriate ways to accept a gift:

– With great pleasure
– With greater pleasure

Some neat things to say when you open a gift:
“Thank you so much!”; “It will look great in my room.”; “I know that I will enjoy reading/using/wearing it!”; “These will keep me nice and warm!”

Some crummy things to say when you open a gift:
“How much did it cost?”; “Not another sweater/wallet/watch!”; “Why did you get me this?”

Even if you are disappointed with a gift, remember: It is never appropriate to hurt another person’s feelings.

Social Tips on Returning Gifts:
It’s okay to return a gift to the store if you already have an identical one (e.g. CD, book, etc.) or if it doesn’t fit (e.g., sweater, gloves, dress, etc.).

The important thing is to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s best not to tell the giver that you returned it…unless they ask. If they ask, then say something like, “I really loved the *NSync CD. In fact, I liked it so much that my friends gave me the same CD for my birthday last month. So, I returned yours and got the new Britney CD. It’s great!”

Writing Thank-You Notes:
It is important to write thank-you notes.

Don’t think of this as a chore…rather, view it as an opportunity to make the giver feel good. It’s not required that you write a thank-you note to a person you have already thanked verbally… but, it’s not a bad idea.

– It’s impossible to over-thank!
– Write a note as soon as possible after you receive the gift.
– Again, this demonstrates your thoughtfulness and good manners.
– Write by hand, if possible.

Although it’s okay to write a thank-you note on the computer, it’s best to do it in your own handwriting. If you do type it, make sure that you sign it by hand.

Don’t begin the note with “Thank you for…”

Give some news first. For example:
“Dear Grandpa,
We had a great time at your house last week and the plane ride home was fun. I never flew on a small plane before. The pilot showed me the cockpit. I also wanted to thank you for the great computer game you gave me, etc.”

Always mention the specific gift that you are acknowledging.

Example: “I really love the Who Wants to be a Millionaire CD-Rom that you gave me for Christmas,” or “All of my friends love the snowflake sweater you gave me.” Avoid: “Thanks for the gift. It was neat.”

If someone gives you money, use the thank-you note to tell the person how you will spend it.

Example: “I will use the money to buy a new baseball glove,” or “I will save the money for our March trip to Disney World.”

Happy gift-giving!
[Richard Lavoie]

A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it.”
[Ivern Ball (?)]


Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done”
[Matthew 16:25-27].



Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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