Happy Thanksgiving Friends!
(That’s me waving to you from across the pond!)
Since I am not cooking a turkey or even baking making Grandmother’s rolls today, I thought I would take a few minutes to share a collection of the thoughts of my heart from the past week or so.
Because I am just a little sad that Black Friday has become such big business that we have managed to export it to the UK, I am framing my musings today with a title that is just my tiny little drop-in-the-bucket protest of my favorite holiday of all time (Thanksgiving) being co-opted into the start of consumer holiday frenzy.
Five Things I Wish We Would Do On Black Friday Instead Of Shopping.
1. Continue Giving Thanks.
If you’ve made a giant meal today, you don’t have to cook tomorrow, so you have more time for practicing thanksgiving.
O give thanks to the Lord for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
1 Chronicles 16:34
Once upon a time I began a practice of gratefulness.
A simple ritual of writing down things for which I am thankful.
And friends, it is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life.
Five years ago, I wrote these words about this practice:
One of the ways I know God is real is that when I ask at the end of a weary day that He would show me what to thank Him for,
He reveals to my heart the gifts I don’t have the eyes to see.
Need a little help. You can make this thanksgiving tree with your family! We’re doing this at our house today and throughout the weekend.
2. Prepare For Christmas.
There are so many other ways to get ready for Christmas than to shop. It seems like it becomes harder every year to make time for the practices that bring our hearts the most peace, hope and joy during this season.
Maybe ask the people around you how they are planning to let the light in to their Christmas season. I have a sheet of paper I’ve been using to brainstorm ideas for the holidays for the last several weeks. Anytime I think, “Oh I wish we would do that this year!” I write down whatever “that” is (ice skating, making cookies for neighbors, reading a family Christmas devotional every day, etc). This weekend I’m going to take that list and put the items on the calendar that I feel like we can fit in this year.
And if you must shop to prepare for Christmas, maybe think about how to shop mindfully? I think it would be lovely to set a challenge of only buying items that bring hope and love to others. Items from a Heifer or World Vision catalog. Or only buying fair trade. It may seem like such a small thing to hand someone a handmade trinket for Christmas instead of a new electronic, but it’s no small thing to the hands that made it.
3. Do Justice.
I have spent a lot of time this season reading about refugees and I’ve discovered something that I am having trouble understanding.
Just before WWII, when both the UK and the US were experiencing food and housing shortages, these two great nations together took in almost 200,000 Jewish refugees.
Today, when both of these countries are radically wealthy, they have committed to taking only 10,000 refugees each, and even that number is consistently facing reduction by legislation.
The crazy bit is that I think if any of us could go back in time and take more Jewish refugees (Anne Frank’s family was denied access to the US), we absolutely would. We would say, YES! Let them come. 200,000 was not enough.
I can’t work out in my heart what the difference is between then and now.
During WWII, the messages posted all around our nations were about saving and stretching what we have to make it work.
Since 9/11, we have been bombarded with the falsehood that the most patriotic action we can take for our country is to spend more money.
It’s as if I am holding the two times in my two hands and wondering how we got from:
Save all you can and share with the refugee.
Spend even what you don’t have, but we have no room for the refugee.
Here’s a paragraph from the most recent briefing I received from World Vision UK about Syrian refugees:
2 million children have become refugees and 5.6 million children in Syria need life-saving assistance. As the crisis drags on, the situation is getting more desperate for families. Families are running out of savings and struggle to provide food, shelter or warm clothing. Many refugees now live on food rations worth only £9 a month, with the cost of living in Syria response countries similar to many Western countries. Many families can no longer afford to send their children to school. Outside refugee camps, only 6% of Syrian school age children in Lebanon, 44% in Jordan and 14% in Turkey attend school. Youth unemployment in Lebanon has reached 78%. Families are marrying off their girls early to help them survive, as well as risking dangerous migration opportunities to survive. Without further action, we risk losing a generation to unemployment, poverty, lack of education and hopelessness.
As the rhetoric in America increases about blocking entrance to refugees, I suppose I wish that at the very least, if we’re going to make it impossible to leave the country (that we ourselves are bombing), could we at least take all that money we were going to spend on a new XBOX, TV, iPhone and give it to improve the dire circumstances in countries like Lebanon, where there are now 1.5 million refugees.
4. Love Mercy.
Last week I read a book that rocked my world.
As is often the case when I read a book that takes me to a place I did not know existed and proceeds to break my heart, I can’t stop talking about it and and I want everyone I know to read it.
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who has spent his life seeking justice for those most desperate: “the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.”
Just Mercy is a collection of stories from his years of doing this incredibly gut-wrenching work.
This may not be an incentive to read, but sometimes I would have to set the book down after I finished one of the stories just to take a deep breath through my tears.
Trina Garnett’s story was one of those. Her story was also told in a news article almost three years ago. And she took part in this powerful video from Muncy State Prison. She’s the one in the wheelchair who speaks at the end of the video. She’s been in prison for over forty years, after being sentenced to life without parole at the age of fourteen for starting a fire that resulted in the deaths of two children.
I walked away from reading Just Mercy with a sense that I need a greater understanding of what Stevenson describes as the four institutions that have shaped the lives of people of color in America:
The first three are: Slavery, A Reign of Terror, and Jim Crow.
The fourth is Mass Incarceration.
I’ll leave you with a quote about prison growth in America that I found wildly disturbing:
In the 1990s, America was opening prisons at a pace never before seen in human history. Between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened in the United States every ten days. Prison growth and the resulting ‘prison-industrial complex’ -the business interests that capitalize on prison construction- made imprisonment so profitable that millions of dollars were spent lobbying state legislators to keep expanding the use of incarceration to respond to just about any problem. Incarceration became the answer to everything–health care problems like drug addiction, poverty that had led someone to write a bad check, child behavior disorders, managing the mentally disabled poor, even immigration issues generated responses from legislators that involved sending people to prison. Never before had so much lobbying money been spent to expand America’s prison population, block sentencing reforms, create new crime categories, and sustain the fear and anger that fuel mass incarceration than during the last twenty-five years in the United States.
5. Walk Humbly.
Of course, I can’t let the opportunity pass to include going for a walk on any list of activities.
But I’ve shared some heavy things.
When my heart is heavy, the best place for me to take it is outside.
To lift my eyes to the heavens and ask the Lord when He is going to come back?
To cry out to God for the brokenness in our world, but then to stand at the shore and wonder at how there is still so much beauty in it.
To Chase the Daylight even when the darkness is closing in.
Wishing you love, mercy, grace and peace today wherever you are! I’m thankful for everyone who reads my ramblings from my little corner of the internet.