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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Duel-istic


It started last week.

I was standing in the produce aisle, inspecting peaches.   An employee standing next to me was humming along with the music from the speakers.  Absent-mindedly she said, “I just love Kenny G”.   I chuckled and said, “To be honest, I’ve never liked him.”

Almost immediately, she turned and glared at me.   She took off one of her latex gloves, and slapped me across the face with it.

“Choose your weapon,” she growled at me.   I sized her up briefly, looked at the pricing gun in her hand, and then bolted for the exit.

Two days later I was talking with somebody at the ballgame.   He said he hated the designated hitter rule.   I told him I thought it made the game more exciting.   Wham!  He slapped me across the face, whispered “Pistols at dawn”, and turned and left.  I’ve decided to start rooting for a different team.  Just to be safe.

What is going on?  I’ve been invited to four duels in the past three days!   I told someone I voted for Obama, and she pulled a sword!  I mentioned to someone else that I was against Capital Punishment and before I knew it we were arm wrestling.

Has the world gone mad?  It’s as if anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours is suddenly an enemy!  This sort of all or nothing thinking is dangerous…and contagious.

I’m worried.  This morning a parishioner told me they hated the Harry Potter books.  It took three people to hold me down!

It’s been shown time and again that dualism can lead to duel-ism.   Remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?  They took their political frustrations out with firearms! While I don’t see that kind of violence on C-SPAN, who could deny the divisive, violent undertones in modern political rhetoric and legislative debate?

Come to think of it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter came to “magical” blows during a dueling lesson at Hogwarts.  It’s true, the Slytherins and the Griffindors seem to be at odds much of the time.

What about you?  How do you respond if someone picks the other side of an issue you’re passionate about?  Do you rush in to argue? Do you challenge your “opponent” to a battle of who is superior?  Do you feel compelled to fight for what you think is right?  Hmm. But what if the fighting part is what’s wrong?

Here’s some advice from the writer of Timothy:

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  –2 Timothy 2:23-25

This doesn’t mean you’re can’t choose to like (or not like ) Kenny G.   It doesn’t mean you can’t choose to approve (or disapprove) of some elected official.   It doesn’t even mean you can’t state your opinion, make your case, and try to share some of your accumulated wisdom in conversation with somebody who disagrees.

But the next time you feel like it’s time to take the gloves off…

Think twice before getting Slap Happy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch