Beware The Thanksgiving Killer

RoastTurkey

Note from Gene: This is from the first chapter of my book Laughing With Sarah. It’s become an annual tradition to post this each year. Even if you’ve read it before, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read it again. Since I originally wrote this over 10 years ago, Black Friday is no longer the first day of Christmas shopping.

Thanksgiving. Perhaps the greatest feast of the year. A day full of turkey, ham, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rice and gravy, cream corn, dressing, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and broccoli casserole, mmm, mmm. And don’t forget desserts like red velvet cake, pecan pie, coconut cake, fudge, and chocolate chip cookies.

It is a day of food, family, reflection, and gratefulness. A day to celebrate the past and dream about the future. It is definitely one thing the government got right. A day designated for citizens to stop and be grateful for all of their blessings.

Then the Thanksgiving killer arrives. Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving when Christmas shopping officially begins. Some stores open at 3 AM. Three o’clock in the morning!

Why is Black Friday the Thanksgiving killer? Because on Thanksgiving Day, we think about all that we have and we are grateful. But on the day after Thanksgiving through the rest of the holidays, we focus not on what we have but on what we want.

The Thanksgiving killer is the Christmas commercialism that says we need more. Just when we have a day to be thankful for all of our blessings, the Thanksgiving killers show up and tell us that we will not be happy until we have something more.

Someone wrote, “Half the world is unhappy because it can’t have the things that are making the other half unhappy.”

Author Steve Brown wrote, “The most unhappy person in the world is not someone who didn’t get what he or she wanted. The most unhappy person is the one who got what he or she wanted and then found out that it wasn’t as wonderful as expected. The secret of a happy life is not to get what you want but to live with what you’ve got. Most of us spend our lives concentrating on what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have.”

Our problem is that we are looking at the Christmas catalogs focusing on what we want rather than looking at our photo albums and rejoicing in what we have!

Beware the Thanksgiving Killer. Don’t give in to its temptations to make you believe you need more stuff in order to be happy. I am discovering that less is more.

What about you?

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Bucket List

bucketlist

Note from Gene: I read this on Dr. James Emery White’s Church and Culture blog a couple of weeks ago. I received permission to reprint it here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “bucket list?”
 
It means the things you want to do before you before you “kick the bucket.”

I recently read an article titled “The Before You’re Forty Bucketlist.”  It was a decent list, full of things both spiritual (read the Bible) and temporal (watch every film on the AFI top 100 list).

It got me thinking what a bucket list should entail for someone who is already a follower of Christ (becoming one would be, of course, the only bucket list item that would matter).  After all, we are not to count this life for much beyond personal preparation for eternity and making an eternal difference on others.

So what would a top-ten bucket list in that spirit contain?

Here’s my shot.

1.   Build a relationship with a non-Christian and share your faith in Christ.

2.   Trust God financially in terms of giving.

3.   Take at least one bungee-jump of faith related to obedience.

4.   Love someone to the point of sacrifice.

5.   Discover your spiritual gift(s) and serve accordingly.

6.   Make one spiritual pilgrimage (see A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom, InterVarsity Press, for some ideas).

7.   Read the Bible in its entirety.

8.   Mentor someone new to the faith.

9.   Find a church home and invest yourself in its community and mission.

10. Serve the poorest of the poor.

Let me know what you think I missed.  But if I can have those ten things crossed off,

…it would have been a good and God-honoring life.

James Emery White

Sources

“The Before You’re 40 Bucketlist,” Jesse Carey, Relevant, October 13, 2013, read online.

James Emery White, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press).

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.  His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press).  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of You

techanalysismag
I’ve dabbled in the stock market for years. Whenever I would hear about an up and coming company or a hot product, I would research it a little and if it sounded good I would take a little money out of our savings account and buy it.

Most of the time I lost money because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I thought you were supposed to buy a stock and hold it until you were ready to retire. Some people call it the “buy, hold, and pray” strategy.

It worked good until the 21st century came along. Nowadays, the “buy and hold” strategy isn’t always so smart. (But don’t tell that to Warren Buffett.)

But I’m not here to write about how to make money in the stock market. There are plenty of other websites out there with that information.

I am here to tell you that sometimes the answers to our questions are right in front of us and we ignore  it.

Here’s my story:

Since I dabble in the market, my name is on someone’s mailing list that says I am interested in trading stocks. Therefore, I receive newsletter offers and sample magazines in the mail. Usually those items go straight into the trashcan. Occasionally, I will peruse them.

I actually subscribed to one newsletter that interested me and I bought a few stocks based on their recommendations. One particular stock skyrocketed earlier this year. I tripled my investment in a matter of months!

It was pure luck.

But it made me curious. How did the speculators know that particular stock was going to get hot?

I started doing some research and began to learn how to read stock charts. It’s a discipline in the stock trading world called “technical analysis.” Sounds exciting, right?

Here’s my point. When I learned about technical analysis, it opened up a whole new world to me. I’m fascinated by it.

You see that magazine cover at the top? I’ve been getting sample issues of it for years. And I promptly threw it in the trash every time.

  • It looked boring.
  • It sounded complicated.
  • I’d thought I’d rather have a colonoscopy than read that magazine.

My answer to stock trading was in this magazine every time and I ignored it. I wish I knew ten years ago what I know today about this subject.

Please hear me. I’m no expert and I’m not rich from picking hot stocks – yet :) . But I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw the above magazine cover on a website the other night and realized that I’d been ignoring it for years.

Sometimes the answers to our questions are right in front of us. Sometimes the very thing that you could be interested in is delivered to your house by the U.S. Postal Service and you don’t even take time to notice.

It makes me wonder what other things have been placed before me that I haven’t taken advantage of.

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My Guru’s Advice Finally Came Back to Haunt Me

Quiver

My blogging guru warned me.

When I read his advice on blogging several years ago, he said that I should have a stash of articles in my writing quiver in case I hit a dry spell.

I didn’t do it.

I faithfully wrote something twice a week almost every week for years. Then it hit me.

Call it writer’s block. Lack of time. Loss of interest. A passion recess. Whatever it was, it infected me last summer.

I’ve been thinking about why I started this blog and how long I want to keep it up. I started blogging in 2004 to promote my first book. According to the publishing gurus, a successful author has to keep an online presence/platform in order to sell books.

Here’s a sad fact: I haven’t built a large platform or sold a lot of books. Since this is true, it’s hard to get inspired to write a book and keep a blog going when you don’t see a significant increase in readers.

Could be a clue that maybe my writing isn’t that wonderful…

Or it could be that some people like my stuff but we live in such a cluttered, information-overloaded world that it’s hard for readers to notice.

(I’d like to think that the reason for a lack of increase in readers is the second reason, not the first.)

Whatever is going on, I’m not ready to recommit yet to twice a week blog posts. I might do it and I might not. The truth is most people will never know or care. I do want to continue Mission 227  whether I do it publicly or not.

I’m okay with that.

But for those of you who HAVE noticed my recent slackness, THANKS for noticing! Thanks for asking when I’m going to write something again. Thanks for asking about my writing projects. (I’ve been invited to write an article for Leadership Journal. I have to get on that. Still need to finish my second novel too.) Thanks for encouraging me. Obviously, I’ve needed it.

I’m putting this in my quiver for next week. I’m going to start another one when I finish this one.

Maybe inspiration is coming back…

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Worst-Case Scenario: A Meteor Will Strike Me Down Within the Next 30 Seconds

meteor
We live a pretty quiet life. Since the kids got married last year, Beth and I have had a lot of tranquil evenings together. We have a great family, wonderful work environments, and a warm home.

There’s really no reason for me to be anxious. But I have been. I’ll spare you what I’ve been anxious about. There are some things that just don’t need to be publicized. Suffice it to say that we all go through seasons in our lives when we find ourselves unsettled, worried, and anxious.

This morning during my prayer time I was sharing my anxieties with God – again. This time He led me to go through worst-case scenarios for each thing that I’ve been concerned about.

As I thought this through with God, I was immediately relieved. When I thought about how bad certain things could go, they were more inconveniences than tragedies. It would be a pain if my scenarios came true. I would be disappointed. But it wouldn’t be the end of the world. (Unless, of course, my worst-case scenario WAS the end of the world which for me, a Christ-follower, really isn’t a worst-case scenario but a best-case scenario…)

I’ve done this worst-case scenario thing before on occasions when I feel stressed. It always seems to help. Maybe it can help you too.

Here’s a short article on dealing with stress and anxiety that you might find helpful.

PS – This was not on my worst-case scenario list: Russian Meteor Blast a Warning for Earth

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