Black Friday thoughts

people crowd walking

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

It’s Black Friday.  The day after Thanksgiving when many of us feasted on way too much food. We lounged (unless you are one of the unfortunate who must work on Thanksgiving) around the house with our family and friends watching football or Hallmark Christmas movies and rubbing our overly full, distended stomachs. We were warm and cozy in our homes with plenty of heat, electricity, and running water.

We Americans have so much and hopefully we took time yesterday to give thanks for our abundant blessings. But today is another day. Today we go back to life as usual. Or do we?

Millions of us will spend this day chasing down bargains – getting up at the crack of dawn to go Black Friday shopping. I’m going to be up front right now and share that I don’t do Black Friday.  Actually, this day when there is a frenzy to be the ultimate consumer and spend, spend, spend on supposed money saving deals bothers the heck out of me.

bloggraphicNovI do not shop on this day — I stay as far away as I can from the maddening crowd.  I think it brings out the worst in us humans – greed, rudeness, gluttony, overindulgence, call it what you will. 

And the fact that stores opened on Thanksgiving to accommodate this craziness and fill their coffers with more money instead of respecting the holiday and giving their employees the day off makes it even more offensive to me.

So, I am being completely honest by admitting I am not thankful for the shopping mania of Black Friday itself here in my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.  But that Bible verse that fuels my life, that one that says be thankful in all circumstances, prompts me to express gratitude on this day. 

Yes today, Black Friday, a day that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Why?  Because the consumerism of Black Friday reminds me that I already have what I need in this life and so do the ones I might Christmas shop for.  It’s called abundance. And we here in America have been blessed beyond measure with it.  

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, there are countless fellow human beings out there in our world who have even more hardships, many right here in our own country.  Many are our brothers and sisters across the globe who live under persecution.

Some live in war-torn areas of the world. They face being killed for their faith. They may be captured, tortured, and imprisoned because of it. So many of our fellow humans here and abroad don’t have shelter or enough food or clothing or even clean water to drink.

And as the Christmas season approaches, I’d rather spend my time on something more meaningful than shopping on Black Friday, filling my shopping cart with consumer goods for my own family and friends.

I am thankful that research is available at the tip of my fingers via my computer keyboard to show me where I can help the most. I’m thankful there are legitimate organizations that exist where I can share my blessings with others who need so much. I thank God that I can impact another person’s life in a positive way to provide a bit of comfort or satisfy a need.

In my guidebook for life, the Bible, Jesus tells me this: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” ~ Luke 12:48

That verse tells me that I am held responsible for what I have, for all I have been given.  If I am blessed with a certain talent, I’m expected to use it. If I’m blessed with time to serve God and others, I need to do so. If I’ve been blessed with monetary goods, I should share those to glorify God and also to benefit those less fortunate. 

I am thankful that because I have been given much, I have much to share.

So on this day after Thanksgiving I have to ask myself, “Am I truly thankful for what I have been given?” And when I realize the answer is affirmative, then it’s time for action.

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” ~ W. Clement Stone

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Once a year

blogIMG_0131(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2012.) 

It’s so easy, isn’t it?  That’s what you’ve been asking yourself this past Christmas season.

Pull into a crowded parking lot at the nearest mall, cruise the lot for an empty spot, jump out of the car with your long list of must-haves to join the throng of Christmas shoppers.

On the way inside the store, you hear the familiar ringing of a bell and you spy the volunteer bell-ringer with the Salvation Army kettle.  You’re in a hurry, but you reach in your pocket or wallet or purse and dig out whatever you can find – some change or a couple of bucks. Throw it in the kettle, accept the “thank you, Merry Christmas” and scurry on your way.

You walk inside your house of worship. There’s an “angel tree” in the foyer. Gift tags with the only identifying items such as “3-yr-old girl wants a baby doll, wears size 4T clothing.” You choose a tag, purchase a few items, and send those off to be distributed to the child in need.

Your civic group participates in Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse. You dutifully find shoe boxes, shop for small toys and school supplies, soap and toothpaste, cram the boxes full, and write a check so the boxes might be shipped to the other side of the world into a child’s eager hands in time for Christmas.

Your favorite hair salon/doctor/grocery store sponsors a food drive to replenish a  food pantry and another local business holds a winter coat drive. You pack up some canned goods, drop them off. You rummage in the front hall closet and dig out those still good but unwanted winter coats and donate them.

You might even take your kids for the day to volunteer distributing bags of groceries with Christmas dinner items packed inside to families in need of food.

And you call this charity. You call this good will. You call this helping those in need. You call it whatever you want to call it because it makes you feel like you’ve done something to help. Something to serve. Something.

And this something proves easy when you do this once a year.

It’s Christmas. We think about those who go without during this holiday season and it’s easy to open our hearts and our wallets or check books.  Because isn’t that what we should do? Isn’t that what makes us feel like we’re spreading Christmas cheer? Or isn’t that what makes us feel good?

Yes. Yes. And yes. But…..you ask yourself…why do you only perform these good deeds at Christmas time? Where is your generosity the rest of the year?

And what would happen if you actually gave all through the year? In March. Or August.  Or every month of the year.

What if you provided a summer picnic to a needy family? What if you purchased a fan to cool off a summer’s day for someone who can’t  afford one?

What if you donated food staples to the food pantry all year long because really, are people only going hungry at Christmas time?

What if you helped a child, one who needs food, clothing, school supplies, and a little toy to bring a smile to his or her face, for 12 months or 12 years?

What if you gave your time to spend it with someone who is lonely?  Someone who is hurting, someone who is grieving?

What if you prayed every day for God to help those who desperately need Him in their lives and to use you in any way He sees fit to teach them about His saving grace?

What if you focused on the feelings of those in need instead of focusing on your own good feeling when you give?

What if you opened your heart every day of the year and not just once a year in December?

Wouldn’t that be something?

Once a Year by Josh Wilson

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Once a year

blogIMG_0131It’s so easy, isn’t it?  That’s what you’ve been asking yourself this Christmas season.

Pull into a crowded parking lot at the nearest Wal-Mart or whatever store you frequent, cruise the lot for an empty spot, jump out of the car with your long list of must-haves to join the throng of Christmas shoppers.

On the way inside the store, you hear the familiar ringing of a bell and you spy the volunteer bell-ringer with the Salvation Army kettle.  You’re in a hurry, but you reach in your pocket or wallet or purse and dig out whatever you can find – some change or a couple of bucks.  Throw it in the kettle, accept the “thank you, Merry Christmas” and scurry on your way.

You walk inside your house of worship.  There’s an “angel tree” in the foyer.  Gift tags with the only identifying items such as “3-yr-old girl wants a baby doll, wears size 4T clothing.”   You choose a tag, purchase a few items, and send those off to be distributed to the child in need.

Your civic group participates in Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse.  You dutifully find shoe boxes, shop for small toys and school supplies, soap and toothpaste, and cram the boxes full and write a check so the boxes might be shipped to the other side of the world into a child’s eager hands in time for Christmas.

Your favorite hair salon/doctor/grocery store sponsors a food drive to replenish a  food pantry and another local business holds a winter coat drive.  You pack up some canned goods, drop them off.  You rummage in the front hall closet and dig out those still good but unwanted winter coats and donate them.

You might even take your kids for the day to volunteer distributing bags of groceries with Christmas dinner items packed inside to families in need of food.

And you call this charity.  You call this good will.  You call this helping those in need.  You call it whatever you want to call it because it makes you feel like you’ve done something to help.  Something to serve.  Something.

And this something proves easy when you do this once a year.

It’s Christmas.  We think about those who go without during this holiday season and it’s easy to open our hearts and our wallets or check books.   Because isn’t that what we should do?  Isn’t that what makes us feel like we’re spreading Christmas cheer?  Or isn’t that what makes us feel good?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.  But…..you ask yourself…why do you only perform these good deeds at Christmas time?  Where is your generosity the rest of the year?

And what would happen if you actually gave all through the year?  In March.  Or August.  Or every month of the year.

What if you provided a summer picnic to a needy family?  What if you purchased a fan to cool off a summer’s day for someone who can’t  afford one?

What if you donated food staples to the food pantry all year long because really, are people only going hungry at Christmas time?

What if you helped a child, one who needs  food, clothing, school supplies, and a little toy to bring a smile to his or her face, for 12 months or 12 years?

What if you gave your time to spend it with someone who is lonely?  Someone who is hurting, someone who is grieving?

What if you prayed every day for God to help those who desperately need Him in their lives and to use you in any way He sees fit to teach them about His saving grace?

What if you focused on the feelings of those in need instead of focusing on your own good feeling when you give?

What if you opened your heart every day of the year and not just once a year in December?

Wouldn’t that be something?

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What if we celebrate Christmas differently this year?

blogDSCN8270The Christmas season draws nigh.  Having just spent some time celebrating Thanksgiving in an entirely different way than usual, I’ve been reflecting on how to spend Christmas this year.

The following video I discovered accidentally (or maybe on God’s purpose) speaks to me today.  My wish is that it may give you pause for reflection on how you spend your Christmas season as well.

Please remember to be in prayer for all those who may not have abundance or even enough this Christmas season and give what you can to the bell ringers of the Salvation Army, to the Red Cross, to World Vision, to whatever organization you know that truly helps those in need.

You will be blessed.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What would I give?

blogDSCN7912“He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity;  for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice.”  ~Henry Taylor

One day last week,  middle daughter and I watched the movie Evan Almighty.    We’ve viewed it before, but both of us just wanted to veg out and watch something light-hearted.

I remembered the basic story line of the movie  – God tells Evan to build an ark – but one of the things I’d forgotten was near the end when Morgan Freeman (as God) converses with Steve Carrell (as Evan) and draws the letters ARK in the dirt.  Turns out what God wanted Evan to do was an Act of Random Kindness (ARK).

That thought reminded me of an action we witnessed during our recent trip south to move oldest daughter back to our home state.  We were settling into our seats for the first leg of our flight.  I turned around to see where middle daughter was located since her assigned seat wasn’t in our row.   My husband nudged me and said, “Look, do you see that?”

A well-dressed gentleman already seated in the airplane’s full first class section must have noticed a man in uniform – a military man  – board the plane.   The gentleman came back to the coach section, spoke quietly to the soldier, and without making a production out of it, offered his seat in first class to the serviceman.

“What a wonderful thing to do!” I thought.  It blessed my heart to see someone honor and respect one of our military,  especially since it was the 10th anniversary weekend of 9-11.  That definitely was one of those acts of random kindness and I doubt if very many people sitting on that plane even noticed what took place.

On our next flight, which again had full first class and coach compartments, I noticed a member of the military sat in the row in front of me.   No one on that plane offered him a first class seat.  And that made me start to ponder this question – what compels a person to give up something of value for another person?  And more importantly, am I willing to sacrifice for someone else, even a complete stranger?

The gentleman on our first flight willingly gave up his expensive seat and, by all appearances, he did so without wanting to claim any glory, thanks, or attention for himself.  That’s a truly giving person – one who expects nothing in return.

Witnessing those two separate events made me contemplate some questions on the rest of the flight.  And today, I can’t stop thinking this over and confronting myself.  What am I willing to give up?  Would I give up a better, more expensive seat on an airplane to a soldier?  Would I even think to do such a thing, would it cross my mind, or would I be so preoccupied with myself that I wouldn’t even notice that soldier?  Do I even pause to realize the sacrifices our military personnel make for me?

I’d like to think that I do.  After all, I am a former military wife.  I know the sacrifices our countrymen and women in the armed forces make each day just so I can live in freedom.  I believe I understand what any person who serves others gives up, be they firefighters, police, or medical personnel just to protect and rescue people like me.

Likewise, I think I’m someone who notices others, especially when they need help.  But the truth of the matter is, I can be just as selfish as anyone.   Am I selfless only when it doesn’t impact me that much?  When I don’t have to really sacrifice anything?  Am I only willing to give up things that don’t matter to me or aren’t that important?  I may feel satisfied when I give unwanted or unworn items to Goodwill, but would I be willing to give a favorite item to someone who needed it?

Maybe giving up a first class seat to another wasn’t a big deal for that gentleman.  But the impact it made on me is a big deal.  When I consider what God has done for me, what He has given up so I may live, I am dumbstruck.  God, the Father, sacrificed his only Son on the cross to pay for my transgressions. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ~ 1 John 4:10

Jesus, the Son, gave up everything for me.  He gave up His home in glory for a time to come to earth and live among us as one of us.  Then He made the ultimate sacrifice, experienced the pain and agony of the cross, and gave up His very life for me, for all of us.     1 John 2:2  says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Any sacrifice I may offer can never compare.  So what must I do?  I believe the answer is live for Him.  God’s Word tells me, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  ~Ephesians 5:1-2

Hebrews 13:16 also reminds me, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  But to give just for the sake of sacrifice means nothing, so I must endeavor to do everything I can, give up whatever I need to, in love so others may come to know Him by my acts.  “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” ~ Mark 12:33

Yes, I may perform an ARK, an act of random kindness, but the important aspect is will others see Jesus in me? Do I accomplish my ARKs for His glory, not my own?

As I contemplate these thoughts in today’s book of Opportunity, Chapter 9, Page 19, I marvel at the way God speaks to me even while witnessing one small act of random kindness on a crowded airplane.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com