Black Friday. Traditionally the day retailers are finally “in the black” from an accounting perspective and become profitable.
But sometimes I think Black Friday brings out some blackness in my heart. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that our mission to find gifts to bring joy often leads to exhaustion, frustration, and short tempers? A desire to bless people we love becomes a means of cursing the people who surround us – in stores, in traffic, in our homes.
Maybe it’s a good day for us to strive to be profitable in grace. Maybe it’s the perfect day to overcome the deficit created by criticizing and correcting and seek to fill our relationship banks with the good currency of grace. Maybe it’s a good day to build others up and use our words, tones, facial expressions, and gestures to give grace, to build others up.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
What could this look like on Black Friday?
Many of us have already returned from our middle-of-the-night-bargain-hunting adventures! Perhaps our opportunity to extend grace means we remember it was our choice to be under-rested. If you are like me, exhaustion often wears down my defenses and I am a little more short tempered, a little more snappish and feisty, a little less tolerant of spills, injuries, laughter and noise. Maybe the joy we hoped to spread by finding special gifts could extend to creating joy today, for those in our homes and around our table. Maybe the same love that went into roasting the turkey could go into making turkey sandwiches or decorating the tree.
For those of us who have yet to venture out into the bargain arena, may I suggest we bring some light into the blackness? Today is a great day to extend grace to others. Perhaps smiling at the other shoppers, offering our place in line to someone with fewer items (or more items!), bringing snacks to share with people waiting alongside you – the ones you don’t even know who are growling about the poor management and lines and sales they missed by oversleeping on this fine day? Maybe we get a crowd singing Christmas carols while we wait, or enlist the help of other shoppers to bless someone? Or leave a little money for the person behind us, to help with their expensive Christmas purchases.
Get creative! What ways can you bring grace and hope with you as you shop (or recover from shopping)?
Today I am praying that you recognize more blessings than you can count, and your heart is full of thanksgiving to the one who has blessed you.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We often remember the pilgrims and Native Americans at Thanksgiving, and rightfully so. The year 1621 was the beginning of giving thanks for bountiful harvest and fellowship with Native Americans in the New World. It was a beautiful thing we should continue to celebrate.
But Thanksgiving as we know it was established as a national holiday by proclamation in 1863. So for just a few minutes, let’s forget the pilgrims and review the proclamation that established the holiday we celebrate today. I think it is especially appropriate as we watch events unfold in Ferguson, MO.
Keep in mind, this was issued by Abraham Lincoln in the height of the Civil War.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Hearts in 1863, like hearts in 2014, were broken over strife between brothers and sisters, issues of race, states rights, and defining governmental control.
But those hearts in 1863 belonged to people – real, flesh-and-blood people. People who made good choices, showed compassion, and loved others well. And those same people who made poor choices, acted selfishly, and expressed hatred for others. There were bloody battles and heroic sacrifices.
They were people just like me.
They were people like you.
And in the middle of all this, without minimizing the agony of the age, Abraham Lincoln declared a day to remember the “gracious gifts of the Most High God” who “remembered mercy.”
Lincoln issued a call to give “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Lincoln also called us to mingle our thanksgiving with “penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience” and with a desire for “the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, and tranquility and Union.”
I think recent events continue to reveal that Providence has not yet fully healed the wounds of our nation.
May our Thanksgiving in 2014 be one of prayer and gratitude for His many blessings, repentance for our part in perpetuating the sins of our fathers (actively or by negligence), and pleas for His healing of our nation through the healing of hearts for His kingdom.
It is only through Christ the lion will lay with the lamb.
It is only through Christ that people – be they black or white – will value human life and the special dignity given by being made in God’s image enough to seek the good of others over self.
It is only as we lay down our desire to make a name for ourselves and seek God’s glory that Babel will be undone, and the peoples will be drawn together.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christ came so we could push back the dominion of darkness, not so we could hide in the shadow of darkness in the name of social justice.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I like resolution. It’s part of my personality, I like things finished, neat and tidy, wrapped up, closed. There’s something thrilling to me about finishing things, making decisions, and having things set. I know not everyone is like that. Lots of wonderful people (many of whom are closest to my heart) like to wait to see all the options, thrive on spontaneity, and are excited by the unknown. I think that’s great… for them. Actually, I enjoy the surprise too, sometimes, but my comfort zone is settled – unless I’m instigating the changes. 🙂
So, by nature, when I discover I’ve messed up, I like to fix it right away. When I’m caught up in sin, I want to “get over it” quickly. When I see others struggling with sin, I want a quick-fix and a ready move into righteousness. I tend to think of continuing to sin as laziness or procrastination – in myself as much as others. But that rapidly moves me into condemnation mode, which is contrary to all scripture teaches!
I tend to think in terms of something is either resolved or I should be embarrassed because it’s not resolved.
But what is embarrassment, but shame?
Several months ago I read a quote by Renee Swope. She said, “God’s conviction is specific and won’t condemn us for who we are, but focuses on something we’ve done. The Holy Spirit’s conviction always includes wisdom and instruction to lead us toward resolution, not shame.”
Resolution, not shame.
Leads us toward resolution… not Poof! magics us to resolution.
One of the quickest ways I am guilty of undermining grace in my life (or the lives of those I love) is to strive for hasty resolution, which may not be resolution at all, but temporary escape.
The Holy Spirit leads us toward resolution.
He gives us grace and time to learn his wisdom and to follow his instruction. He does not seek hasty resolution, but true heart change that is both genuine and sustainable.
When I try to rush things along, I shortchange myself. I might see an immediate external drive for better behavior, but I may never develop a heart that seeks His pleasure.
Whitewashed tomb, anyone?
I don’t want to be a whitewashed tomb, pretty on the outside and full of uncleanliness on the inside (Matthew 23:27. I want to be a vessel of honorable use, (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
I want God to lead me toward resolution of my sinful habits with wisdom and instruction. I want to have honorable habits which come from consistent, steady (without haste) practice at following his instruction and learning his wisdom. I want to turn my back on condemnation and shame, and face the grace of God full on. A grace that loves me as I am, but does not leave me there.
That’s a resolution about which I can truly be thrilled!
By this time next week, Thanksgiving will be a thing of the past and we’ll be in the throes of Black Friday, elbowing our way through the masses to find the perfect gift.
But for now, for many Thanksgiving looms ahead, a mixture of thrill and dread as we consider the delectable foods accompanied by the tight waistbands and brutally honest scales. Or maybe, its a mixture of excitement tainted with angst because family relationships are more strained than the lumps in the gravy.
For me it’s just all about excitement. We have the privilege of hosting some of our favorite people, enjoying food and friendship and gravy and grace – lumps and all.
Right about now there are articles flying around about the perfect recipe, how to be the perfect host (or guest), the brilliant idea of offering to bring the gravy, decorations for the table, methods to add meaning, activities for the kids’ table, conversation starters, proper etiquette for tricky situations… lots of things about coming together to enjoy food, friendship, and family.
This flurry of articles is awesome!
Special recipes are a delight since I love food (eating it more than making it)!
I want to be a great hostess (or guest), which is why we regularly remind ourselves manners are a simple way of counting others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
And Thanksgiving is a great time to remember to eat and drink with God’s glory,not gluttony, in mind (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Thanksgiving Day is also the perfect time to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) in a material way, even as I consider his many blessings and boast in him (all of Psalm 34), exalting and praising him for the refuge he provides not only from sin, but also from sinning.
On the other hand, all those articles tempt me to embrace perfection. They promise I can learn to serve the perfect food with the perfect apron and perfect smile. I can set it on a perfectly beautiful table with perfectly mannered kids at the perfect time on perfect dishes with perfect conversation… and perfectly miss the perfect blessing of being full of thanksgiving rather than doing Thanksgiving fully. Perfection is a promise laden with bondage. Thankfulness is a promise laden with joy.
So it struck me as I was making a shopping list last night, there is one thing I want to make sure graces my table this year.
If the turkey burns (gasp) and the rolls are like hockey pucks and the gravy is so thick it could stand, I want brokenness served with grace at my table.
If the turkey is perfectly juicy and the rolls are like clouds and the gravy flows like a stream from heaven, I want brokenness served with grace at my table.
I’m not sure I’m cut out to be the perfect hostess. I’m not sure I make a great guest. I don’t know if our table will have any decorations or activities or special meaning, but I do broken pretty well.
I do soapy-tasting scones & snap-at-the-kids & laugh-at-the-jello-on-the-floor pretty well.
I do I-forgot-to-preheat-the-oven & my-heart-is-broken-over-what-you-are-telling-me pretty well, too.
I do “I’m sorry” a little less well, but I am getting better at it.
Whatever hospitality experts, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Martha Stewart may say, brokenness is an essential ingredient for the perfect Thanksgiving.
So, if you are coming to my house this Thanksgiving, please come share your brokenness.
If you come to my house for pizza some Friday, or take me up on a offer for a night’s lodging as you pass through Tennessee, please bring your brokenness. I want my table, my home, my presence to be a place where brokenness is welcome and perfection is recognized for what it is: a lie and a taskmaster.
If you are having Thanksgiving this year under strained circumstances, maybe it’s time to add brokenness to your Thanksgiving menu.
If you are opening your home to others this Thanksgiving, maybe you could offer brokenness as you open the door.
As you enter the home of someone else next week, maybe you could tie the flowers with a ribbon of brokenness.
Adding brokenness to the menu in my house might mean I admit I struggle with a critical spirit but have seen the Spirit strengthening me in encouragement. As we talk about the things for which we are thankful: the food, the friendships, the years of history we share, the freedoms we have today that we should not take for granted, the health we have and the provision we’ve seen, the people who are not with us… serving brokenness will add thankfulness for progress I’m making in having patience with my kids and a growing contentment with God’s calling on our family.
After all, it’s only in context of my utter brokenness that I can offer the hope of the cross and live in thankfulness for it. What could be more perfect than that?