Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Surviving Thanksgiving With Your Family!


Dear Friends,
Sometimes the worst dinnertime disaster at Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the turkey – it’s the family. Does your Thanksgiving look like a Norman Rockwell painting where the entire family is practically perfect in nearly every way? If so, don’t waste your time reading this week’s AMEN Corner. Does your Thanksgiving look like a Jerry Springer grudge match with flying metal folding chairs? If so, I still have some coupons left that I would be more than happy to give you – I’ll explain more about the coupons in a moment. Or does your family Thanksgiving look like something in between practically perfect and perniciously psychotic? If so, this AMEN Corner may be helpful...
I’ll never forget the year that we were trying to logistically plan things out for Thanksgiving dinner with our own extended family. For a few years, we had it at a person’s house who doesn’t cook and he orders Thanksgiving dinner from a restaurant. Kind of like an upscale Turkey Box Lunch. But that year he had a new girlfriend who wanted Thanksgiving at her house. She lived in a small house with a huge undisciplined dog and her own tradition was to invite eleven of her closest relatives and friends. Even though she was engaged to this member of our immediate family, we still didn’t make the cut and were not invited. Then the family matriarch intervened and her son’s fiancee extended a reluctant, last-minute invitation to us, but we were told that because the house was too small, we’d have to sit outside on a small patch of grass and dirt next to the dog house.

The second-tier guests like us were going to be confined in the tiny back yard with the 120 pound dog and I didn’t want to be wrestling with a Rottweiler over a turkey leg, so I was hoping that maybe we could just park in their driveway and they could serve us a Turkey Box Lunch in the car. At this point in the Thanksgiving planning, the tension increased pushing us even further away and so we rebelliously did something that we had never done before. We drove to Carpinteria and bought two turkey Subway Sandwiches. The sun-warmed beach was devoid of people and it was like being on a deserted island. It was Thanksgiving in paradise! We sat in the shade of a palm tree, enjoyed the fresh ocean breeze, ate our turkey sandwiches and the pumpkin scones I had made for dessert. It was the best and most meaningful Thanksgiving day that we’d ever had.

I’m obviously going to encourage you to spend Thanksgiving with your family, but I did get some Subway coupons in my mailbox last week so just let me know if you’d like to have them. (We’ll thankfully be with our family this year, so I won’t need to use them.) Family is important to us and God made us that way. We were created to be in relationship with those who God has given to us and to whom we have been given. We were created to live in a family relationship with others, but today’s families face a minefield of trigger topics where even the mildest remark about the weather can unleash a diatribe on climate change or a niece’s newborn baby boy can trigger a heated discussion about the child’s right to choose its own gender.

Last week HuffPost called for the elimination of Thanksgiving because of its environmental impact on climate change and an MSNBC host described Thanksgiving as a “problematic food holiday” while giving advice on how to mock and denigrate the character of any Trump supporters at the table. Many in our Nation have been indoctrinated to hate any person who does not conform to their political doctrine, but the media’s agenda to provoke our rage does not have to provide the context for our Thanksgiving family dinner. This is a season of thanksgiving! Time for us to thank God for the grace He has so lovingly given to us. Time to let that grace flow through us to others in our circle of family and friends. Time to see other people not through our own eyes but through God’s eyes. Thanksgiving should be a time of warmth, harmony and peace with family and friends, but in a fractious family, how do we do that?

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If the host/hostess knows there are those present who are outspoken and have strong beliefs about an issue, (see above wordcloud) they should announce that those discussions are not welcome and that the focus of the time together is on what everyone is thankful for. If conversations turn political anyway, then do what you can to avoid triggering discussions about today’s hot button issues while knowing that others may still use just the fragment of a conversation to transition to the issues they are feeling most passionate about. When that happens, simply don’t engage – just listen without replying. We foolishly think that we can change another person’s opinion by our persuasive arguments, and when we can’t, we may feel that rage building up until we become hostile, resort to verbal violence and say things that may potentially cause irreparable damage to a family relationship. But what if we’ve chosen to not engage and another person still becomes verbally combative: “So why don’t you hate Trump?” The best response may be a mild, “That’s not a conversation to have while we’re enjoying this day together, maybe we can talk about it later.” And if you’ve been mocked or belittled by another, immediately start to work on your forgiveness, remembering that one definition of forgiveness is “Simply no longer holding against a person what deserves to be held against them.”

On Thanksgiving day and everyday, we are  responsible for what comes from our own mouth. “The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21 meaning that our words can either speak life, or our words can speak death. It is not Christ-like for us to let rage build in us to the point that we damage or kill a relationship with a family member by the words we use. The words from our lips, pour out of our heart and form the image of how others see us. A friend recently told me about a message she had seen on a church sign: “If the words you spoke were written on your skin, would you still be beautiful?” This Thanksgiving, let’s make sure that our own words are kind and filled with the grace of God. “Kind words are like honey..sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24-26 NLT Amen?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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