What a Year of Disruption Means for this Thanksgiving

The disruption to our lives that gripped us last Thanksgiving lingers still. The shock has worn off. But the waves continue to ripple out.

On a week when the stock market soars we’re encouraged to think, as I saw on a billboard for Charles Schwab, "We can get our future back!" We feel like giving thanks.

The disruption to our lives that gripped us last Thanksgiving lingers still. The shock has worn off. But the waves continue to ripple out.

On a week when the stock market soars we’re encouraged to think, as I saw on a billboard for Charles Schwab, "We can get our future back!" We feel like giving thanks.

On a week when the market tanks we feel like pulling the Blue Bell or Ben and Jerry’s out of the freezer. Take me away Cookies and Cream. Or Cherries Garcia. Or Chunky Monkey. Or Crown Royal. Or Valium.

Rather than giving thanks, we can choose the Scarlet O’Hara Approach. Scarlett is the patron saint of bad weeks and bear markets. "I can’t think about that today. I’ll think about that tomorrow."

The escape option has been growing in popularity over the last year. Dr. Phil tells us that drug and alcohol use is up. The New York Times tells us that, "The movie industry has been startled by a box-office surge that has little precedent in the modern era…ticket sales up this year 17.5 percent to $1.7 billion"

(Sidebar-My young friend, who works at a movie theater, has been dreading November 19th: The Twilight movie opened to a flood of thankful fansnine theatre’s worth sold out ahead of time, showings every half-hour beginning at 10:00 AM. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line between a little R&R ends and full blown fantasy/escape begins.)

My own experience with escape has been long and deep. After I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 29, I began to drift into far too much TV, daydreams and fantasies about the life I longed to live, free of my debilitating disease, riding the sunbeams and racking up the successes out of my reach.

But I eventually discovered that when I diverted so much energy and imagination into an alternate universe, there was less left over for the real world. I would lose my creative impulse for daily living.

As I look back over my small world season, I think how the emptiness I felt came from being in a place, either in my head, in a book, or on a screen, where I was not present to God or other people. I was living a life divided between God’s creation and my own.

When we live in reality, we can breathe a prayer at any moment: Lord, give me strength for the task, wisdom for the moment. I can never think of a time when I was watching long stretches of TV or spinning my tales where I prayed a "thank you" or even a "help me" prayer.

I sensed the lack of integrity deep in my bones. The reality of my own life, full of potential moments of love and service, was ticking by, and I was going to Disneyland! Or rather Fantasyland. Both in duty and escape, I was missing my moments. Wasting big chunks of my life. My escape was killing me softlyone evening of TV, one daydream at a time.*

Before they hung Jesus on the cross, the soldiers offered him a little wine mixed with myrrh–a way to escape the full reality of his pain. Did you ever think seriously about why he refused? Living in reality, totally present to his Father and his suffering, meant more to Jesus than embracing a well-deserved escape. Like William Wallace in Braveheart, he had a battle to fight and wanted his wits about him.

Whether we distract ourselves from challenge and difficulty with escape or busy-ness or dozens of other options, God clearly has another approach: Walk through disruption with our eyes on the main thing: The glory and splendor, the tender presence of God. Give thanks to the One on the throne and be so moved that we attend with a tighter focus on our greatest calling: Love God. Love others.

This Thanksgiving is a good time to acknowledge the disruption, fear, loss. Reflect on the depth, the richness of who God is, how much he loves us, provides for us, and the reason we’re hereto love and enjoy him and others, especially in times of disruption.

At a time when more stores and homes are packing up Halloween, skipping Thanksgiving and going straight for Christmas, let’s reflect on all the ways God has blessed us, in spite of, because of our economic crisis.

If our friends, neighbors and the world might see us filled with a thanksgiving that overflows to generosity in these fragile times, they might see a finger pointing to a God that is more irresistible than they ever imagined.

* My spiritual journey through resignation and escape, from seeking Jesus out of duty to seeking him out of delight is chronicled in Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Hearts.


Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.


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    Thanks in the age of Narcissism.
    Hi there friend:
    Your thoughts here: true as usual.
    (An update on your sidebar: In fact 17 screens showed the Twilight movie that first day; 16 of them sold out AHEAD of time!)

    On a rather different note: I”M bothered this Thanksgiving by the salutation we commonly hear, “Happy Thanksgiving!” Why, AGAIN, is it about OUR “happiness”?? Always: “me, me, me, and happy, happy.” Maybe I’m being touchy, but it suddenly bugs me that, like you say here, ‘we go straignt from Halloween candy into Christmas gifts’. Get, get, get=happy: MY happiness, the #1 thing in life. I wonder we can’t seem to force a more worthy greeting out of our lips, something maybe like:
    “Have a grateful Thanksgiving, friend!” or “Enjoy the gift of giving thanks!” or just “Thankful Thanksgiving!”

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      Lael Arrington

      The irony about happiness is…

      …when we try to nail it, aim straight for it, it tends to eludes us. Seems to show up as a by-product of other things. Like giving thanks.

      Wow. Twilight on 17 screens. So many who long to be noticed, chosen and cherished forever. And not by a vampire.