Thankstaking!

I saw over the weekend someone jokingly called Thanksgiving “Thankstaking” on their Facebook status. I laughed, but then realized that I had spent most of the break looking for deals on stuff for myself. And with Cyber Monday in full swing, that hasn’t gotten any better.

It’s a bit disturbing how just “browsing around” can tempt me so hugely to buy something. Even if I don’t really want it, seeing it on sale, looking at the pictures, and reading the reviews make me think, “Ooo, I need that.” I almost bought a box of ramen this morning online.

And what’s worse is seeing it in person because someone else has it. A friend just got a new tablet, and even though my Ipad is perfectly fine, I totally coveted his. (Not too long ago, I thought about selling mine to upgrade only to remember that it was a wedding gift and it has our names engraved on the back…)

We just had a sermon yesterday about how envy hinders true relationships from building because it causes us to judge or be judged by others. And it doesn’t apply to just material things, but we so often covet things or look down on one another because of status, ability, looks, and so many more.

The way out of this is understanding that our identity is not found in our possessions, accomplishments, or physical appearance. As Christians, our identity and our significance are found in our relationship with God. In Christ, we are God’s children, completely loved and fully accepted.

It is more than ironic that the season to give thanks and to celebrate the birth of our Savior has become instead an endless pursuit of finding significance apart from God. It is the work of Satan to tempt us into finding our identities in what we can accomplish and buy.

The following is a prayer exercise that I have found helpful to remind myself of who I am and where my identity lies. Even though we are back in school or work, I encourage you to find sometime this week to re-center ourselves onto Christ.

Prayer of Recollection

1. Present yourself to God and open your heart to the Lord and intend to learn from Him. (~1-2min)

2. Consider as loss all things that you are tempted to find gain in outside of Christ. Consider all these things as loss compared to Jesus Christ. Ask God to help you identify potential idols in your heart, whether they be good or bad things that you are tempted to find your identity in. This is an opportunity to confess and detach from those things (Phil 3:7-8) (~10-min)

3. Affirm to your soul and the Lord your true identity in Christ, that through faith and union in Christ, you are no no longer condemned but accepted completely by God. (Phil 3:9-11), (~10min)

4. Resolve to keep your heart and mind attentive to the Lord. Be receptive, silent, and still. (1-2min)

Adapted from Dr. John Coe, Intro to Spiritual Formations

When it is Hard to Give Thanks

It’s almost Thanksgiving! This usually means good food (hot pot if you are Chinese), family, friends coming back, more food, movie vegging during days off, and more food. Plus Christmas is around the corner and that means more days off. I was up in Idyllwild last weekend and there was some early snowfall action; looks like it’ll be a good snowboarding season.

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not sure who made this little guy

It’s a time where we are supposed to count our blessings and make a list of all the things we are thankful for. But what if it’s not so easy to give thanks? Maybe things are hard financially or someone lost a job. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, or this time reminds you of a loss in the past. Sometimes it is hard to give thanks, even though we know we have many things to be thankful for.

I think sometimes well-meaning Christians do more harm when we “look on the bright side” that in Christ we have eternal life, love, peace, etc and try to ignore the very real suffering that one is experiencing. While it is true that our struggles here are “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” (Romans 8:18) and our “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory” (2 Cor 4:17), God does not call us to deceive ourselves and stuff away how we really feel.

I’ll share more about this during our Thanksgiving program, but for now, if you are in that place, I hope you can find encouragement in the psalms. When I read the honest expressions of the psalmists, I am reminded that our sadness, anger, and even doubts can exist side-by-side with our faith in God, and we can bring all of that to God.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13