How much can you digest at Thanksgiving Dinner?

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Here’s how it often works:

Extended families will drive or fly for hours to converge in one location.

They will spend half of a day or more, creating the most mouthwatering feast imaginable.

And then they’ll sit down at the table and give each other indigestion.

Not from the food, mind you.

From the conversation.

Not everyone finds themselves in this situation on Turkey Day.  My wife and I, for example, have opted for a low-key day where our only chance of eating turkey is if it comes on a pizza.

But most of us have been there before:

Sitting across from uncle Larry, who has strong views on everything, and thinks now is the best time to discuss “that mess in Ferguson.”

Or next to younger sister Teri, who majored in Taking Offense:  “How DARE you say that about Katy Perry!”

Or down the table from great aunt Carol, who habitually sighs and laments “the way things used to be.”

(And don’t forget your Nephew Spike who likes to make fart noises with his hands at especially delicate moments.)

Whatever your specific family configuration, you may find yourself struggling to keep things pleasant and low-key this Thanksgiving, with less than preferable results.

What can you do?

Well, you could be the one to bring up the controversial subjects first, in an attempt to frame the conversation.

Or you could quietly cry in your napkin and lament another ruined family moment.

Or you could rule with an iron fist — banning any and all CNN or FOX-worthy topics.  And fart noises.

Or…

You could count your blessings.

Even in the tumult.  Even when the turkey hasn’t been cooked enough, and Uncle Larry has had one too many.

Count your blessings and voice them, joyfully.  Even if your blessings may be different from Great Aunt Carol’s.

In fact, count Carol as a blessing, too.  Count the whole clan.

Maybe they’ll start counting too.

Rarely do these family dinners go off without a hitch, but there’s still time to make Christ the guest of honor.

(Saying Grace is always a good place to start).

Now I know that not every family dinner ends in a food fight,

but for the ones that do, here’s a reminder to help you keep the Thanks in Thanksgiving.

If you think you’re gonna lose your cool:

Count To 10.

And then just keep counting.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Mitch

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Low Hanging Allergies

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There you are, in the middle of the Garden of Eden.

It’s beautiful here!

Ah, but there, in the distance, is the tree of the knowledge of good evil.

God has told you you must not eat of this tree, or you will surely die.

You walk over to the tree, and there, dangling from it, in all their glory…

are Green Peppers.

Green Peppers?  Well, yes– if you’re my mom reading this, anyway.

Maybe for you the tree offers peanuts.  Or wheat.  Or shellfish.

Here’s my new theory:

I think the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (or the TOTKOGAE, as I like to call it) is filled with whatever food you’re allergic to or intolerant of.

Can you imagine?  There, right in the center of your otherwise beautiful life, this display of things that will make you sick?  Taunting you to try just a little.

(When the food itself taunts you, who needs a serpent?)

By the way, this devotion sprang to my mind as I contemplated the food I ate yesterday.  Among other things, I had peanuts, fish, wheat, gluten, eggs, sugar, onions, green peppers, and plenty of dairy.  My diet yesterday could have knocked out more than a dozen people I know.

I guess I’m lucky not to be plagued by food allergies, but I realize what a constant strain they can be on people I care about.

For some, having a food allergy/intolerance means just being a little more selective about what they eat.

For others, it requires a meal-by-meal hyper vigilance.

For some, the consequence of taking a bite off of the “fruit” of that tree is an upset stomach or a rash or an itchy nose.

For others, it’s an epipen or a trip to the ER.

No matter the severity of the reaction, the question that comes to my mind is, “Why, God, did you make all this cool edible stuff, and then make it dangerous to eat?”

Well, I think science may have an elaborate and detailed theory about why food allergies develop across cultures and centuries. My theological answer is somewhat simpler:

Everyone interacts with our world a little differently, but God interacts with each of us in the same way.  God loves us, and wants us to have a full experience on this planet.

Maybe God put up the TOFTKOGAE to remind us of the need to live within our individual limits, that joy comes from living deliberately and wisely.

That’s a good notion for all of us…

And you know what?

If Adam and Eve had taken the time to find out that they were allergic to apples,

It might have been a little easier,

to resist temptation.

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Yahoogle

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. –Deut. 4:9

Let’s pretend it’s 1985.

I tell you I’m a genius.  You can ask me anything.

So you give it a shot:  “The weather today in Botswana?”  Clear and 61 degrees.  “The Russian word for ‘rope’?”  верёвка.  “How many McDonalds restaurants in Council Bluffs, Iowa?”  Three.  The most common ground squirrel in New England?  Ahh, trick question.  In New England, ground squirrels aren’t nearly as prevalent as tree squirrels.

In 1985, I would be hot stuff.   Probably rich.  Maybe an advisor to the president.

But here in 2014, I’m just a dude with access to the Internet.

Nowadays everybody has access to just about all the information there is.  Books, facts, charts, pictures, it’s all a few keystrokes away.   It’s exciting!  Enough to make you want to shout, “Yahoogle!”

However, sometimes I wonder if there’s a downside.   The fact that I can instantly access scores for high school baseball games played in Guam seems a tad much.   The notion that if I wanted to, I could read reviews for the movie Captain America in Ireland is just…strange.   It used to be that information was a commodity, a prize to be accumulated and treasured.

Now?  We’re way past information overload.   Now information is just….there.  Constant.   Like a constant buzzing sound in your ear.

I don’t know.  Maybe this is what the world looks like when it’s populated by geniuses.   Everyone has access to all there is to know, but somehow we still have the same problems.  “Smart” people still argue over the facts when it comes to political issues.   The rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer.   I guess I’m disappointed the search engine hasn’t saved us all.

One thing you can’t find on Yahoo! or Google is the meaning of life.

Oh, there are a number of opinions on the subject (47,000,000 to be exact) but when knowledge moves from the realm of facts to the realm of faith, the answers become more elusive.   If you want to know God, or your place in the world, or how humans should treat each other, there are plenty of articles you can read.   But truly finding that kind of Truth comes from searching your heart (not to mention the Good Book) and growing your faith.  There’s more to it than typing in keywords.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that as our technology increases, we must make sure our wisdom and our faith don’t lag behind.  The Internet may surely be a cause to shout Yahoogle!  But without a filter of faith…

It all sounds like nonsense.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

 

 

 

 

(This devotion was first published in 7/11)

Election Day at First Church of the Heart

05coverspan600There once was a Church, “First Church of the Heart”
With the strangest distinction I have to impart.

There were 48 members, and it should be noted,
on the day of elections, every one of them voted.

Not a one of them pushy or preachy or snooty,
One by one, on their own, each one doing their duty.

And that in itself is a sign of some health:
A Church that’s engaged, and not just with itself.

When I tell you what happened, your feelings may change,
For this small, noble church took a turn for the strange.

Though the church wasn’t told — to salvage their pride
Every item they voted?  24 on each side.

Every vote for a candidate, every ballot and bout
Had another vote cast that just cancelled it out!

So the question to ponder, that comes to my mind:
Did First Church of the Heart end up wasting its time?

Are you kidding? Of course not!  Any church is a treasure
That can differ in politics but worship together.

May we all be as active, accepting, a part
of the world that we’re in…

Without losing Our Heart.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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