I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Great news everybody! I know it's Wednesday, but Black Friday started 2 days ago! This is wonderful because now we can pick up a few more things so we will have something to be thankful for when Thanksgiving morning rolls around! And to make things even better, many stores are opening for deals on Thursday night, so we can get right back at it before the gratitude wears off. Because, honestly, one day is NOT enough to contain Black Friday!!!
"Black Friday must become greater, Thanksgiving must become less."
I think John the Baptist might have said something like that? Hmm, I might be mixing it up a little. Look it up in John 28:15 just to be sure.
Friends, we are expanding the wrong things.
Black Friday is getting larger and larger. And our gratitude is shrinking. Our celebration is shrinking. Our margin for joy and peace is shrinking. Our space for spiritual transformation is shrinking. Our contentment and our rest…. it’s all shrinking.
And this should not surprise us, because it’s how humanity works. What we truly value will eventually take up more and more space in our lives.
And what we worship will always expand into other areas and push out everything else.
So the cultural phenomenon before us at the end of every November becomes an opportunity for us to sit up, take notice, and ask ourselves…
What do I value? What’s taking up the most space?
What do I worship? What is creeping into all areas of my life?
The temptation is to join with the movement of the crowd, as consumption slowly eclipses thanksgiving. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The beauty and freedom of being in Christ is that we have the power to make decisions for ourselves because our hearts and minds are being made new. We are not pawns or lemmings. We are little Christs, tiny representations of the one who creates, invites, and makes a way for the good life to be experienced now and forever. At least, that’s what’s available. Whether it expands in us or not is our call.
We've got one day left before the thanksgiving holiday this year. Even so, images of contentment are often linked to how much food is on the table or how stable our family and social circles are. Contentment is one of those luxurious things that we are taught is only attainable with a perfect life and an endless supply of stuff.
So true gratitude, despite how often it's tossed around, is still a radical practice. Paul found that the gift of life in Jesus was so abundant that nothing could infringe on it. It changed him. What would happen if we freshly explored this gratitude with Jesus at the core? Our discipleship bursts with life when gratitude becomes a lifestyle and expands to every area of our lives. It takes about 5 minutes to be still, journal a few words of thanks to God for the gift of life, and shoot a text with a note of thanks to someone in your life. And those 5 minutes change the rest of the day, turning thanksgiving into a year round experience, not a food-centric holiday. Take that, Walmart. We can expand our day too.
The Church is called to live in such a way that wakes people up to the reality that God’s upside-down kingdom is at hand. We get to live with a love, a contentment, and a sense of purpose with Jesus that is always expanding. It expands beyond our worship gatherings and into our workdays. Beyond our meal communities and into our family meals. Beyond our prayer times and into our friendships.
This isn’t about Black Friday. Make your own choices on how to handle all that. It’s about what’s expanding in your own life. Is God's contentment, and love growing in our lives? Jesus Jesus spoke of his kingdom as a mustard seed- an invasive plant that would expand and take over everything around it once it got rooted. I love that image. Together, let’s invite the values of Jesus to get larger and larger and permeate every area of our lives. Let’s remind Walmart that our kingdom can expand even more broadly than theirs.
Jesus, bring your contentment into every area of my life, so that nothing is untouched by your love, grace, and hope.
*Today's TFG is adapted from a previous reflection. And yes, this one came a day earlier than usual. Happy Thanksgiving.