For the last week, I have watched social media. Watched, but not much engaged nor commented.

Are these white people protesting injustice and oppression? No, they are just trying to get the best deals at Target.

Are these white people yearning to breathe free, protesting injustice and oppression? No, they are just trying to get the best deals at Target.

Since the Ferguson decision, I have mostly kept quiet, mostly watched.

My social media feed has been filled with people all over the country. People who vehemently voice their opinions. People who, like me, do not live in Ferguson. People who, like me, probably have never met a Ferguson resident in their lives. People who, like me, were not witness to any of the actual goings-on in Ferguson. People who, like me, have opinions that do not really matter one bit to the plight of Ferguson.

I watch the comments, which can be roughly divided into two columns. There are the people who “stand” with the people of Ferguson, however they define it. And there are the people who turn up their noses and say “tisk tisk” to the people of Ferguson. They say things like “how very sad” and “They deserve what they get.”

It makes me sad, because Friday came just a few days later, and I knew exactly what was going to happen next.

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On Friday, people went nuts again.

I heard about people camping out for two weeks for some Black Friday deals. I don’t know what kind of math you have to do for that to make sense. But it seems more sensible to me to go to work. If you have to camp out for two weeks to buy a television, you probably have bigger problems than not having a television.

I wonder if Black Friday is even fun anymore. It does not look like it. It looks awful. I said that as I stayed at home in my pajamas, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful morning.

The thing is I do not even know what I missed. I don’t know about any of the deals I passed up. I don’t know about all of the fabulous stuff I could have had and unbelievable prices.

But I also know something else.

No matter how much time I spent or money I saved. No matter how hard I fought to get a great deal, I would still probably forget everything I bought by next Christmas. There are so very few gifts that I have received in my life that I remember. Does anyone else realize this?

Gift-giving has long lost its luster for me. In some ways, I actually dread it. The thing that used to excite me most as a child has all but lost its meaning for me. I am glad my family does a fun little “gift auction.” We get play money and bid on items that any of us would enjoy. The other option is that we all just buy gift cards for each other, which is a thinly veiled way to just swap cash.

I have long since learned that the excitement that Santa promised was very temporary, very fleeting. Stuff always loses its appeal, sometimes very quickly. IMG_7885

If everyone realized that, it would probably be a disaster for the economy.

Over the last few weeks, I think it has finally hit home for Cheri and I that there will soon be a new litter person in our lives.

Parents take on Jimmy Kimmel's challenge to give their children lousy Christmas presents. Their reactions are not always funny.

Parents take on Jimmy Kimmel’s challenge to give their children lousy Christmas presents. Their reactions are not always funny.

A little person who cannot express himself except by crying. A little person who has needs and wants and cannot meet any of them for himself.

As we have read some books and said some prayers, we know that there is one phase of childhood that is going to really bristle us. It’s going to bug us and stress us.

It’s the “me” phase. Actually, I should say it’s the “ME ME ME” phase; the time when a child believes that he is the only person in the world, the only person who has needs and wants, when he believes that everyone else exists to fulfill his desires.

I know that despite my parents’ best efforts, I went through the same phase. I was sort of a selfish kid, especially when it came to my brother. I did not think of others. And now it really bugs me to think of my own kid being that way.

As we celebrate our last Thanksgiving before becoming parents, we know we want one thing: we want to raise a grateful kid.

It might be harder than I anticipate.

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On Thursday, we will spend time with family.

We will eat a lot of food.

We will watch football and parades.

And we will be thankful.

Or will we? I’m completely certain of the first three things. I’m not so sure of the last.

People complain about how the retailers have completely overshadowed Thanksgiving with their Black Friday sales. It’s true, but I don’t blame the retailers. I cannot blame the retailers for the fact that there are, apparently, people willing to camp out for two weeks for a cheap television. It is not the fault of the retailers that those people probably never did the math to figure out how much they are losing in lost wages verses how much they will save on such a television.

No, I don’t blame the retailers for giving people an opportunity to show what is already in their hearts. If people did not want to spend their Novembers this way, it would not work as a business model.

I don’t think the American church has done anything about it, either, with our massively consumeristic church culture that has been built.

And so, as we near Thanksgiving, I am left with one conclusion…

That we are not thankful.

Because I have to believe that the foundation of gratitude is contentment. If people were content, they would see no need to bust down doors at Wal-Mart. They would know that they have enough.

I am not sure that enough is in our vocabulary anymore. And so, I have to go to the wisdom of a different culture and faith, a faith that never knew the joys of Black Friday…


If we only brought back the word “enough” into our vocabulary, it would change everything. It would change the way we do business. It would change the way we raise our kids. It would change the way we worship. Enough makes people happy. More always leaves people wanting.

You have enough.

You are enough.

What’s up, everyone? It seems like everyone is just kind of puttering toward the finish line, trying to get to Thanksgiving break, trying to tie up loose ends while we run on fumes…at least that’s me! It is seasons like this, when I am busiest and time is shortest that I am most thankful for good things to read and watch.

This is what fueled me this week.

In My Netflix QueueAlive-Inside-Film-Poster-2014

Last weekend, Cheri and I watched an unusual amount of stuff, including going to the theater to see Bird Man (incredible). But we also stumbled across this documentary, Alive Inside about the effect that music has on elderly people with alzheimer’s or memory loss. Beautiful and provocative and I am not exaggerating when I say that it brought me to tears more than once. And when I showed it to my pregnant Cheri, forget it.

In My Blog Reader

Plenty of good stuff in my blog reader this week, all of it from the ladies. The guys must already be on vacation or something.

Just this morning, Addie Zierman posted a heart-rending story about a friend and family man who is experiencing a season of suffering that we all pray we never experience.

In time for the Thanksgiving holiday, Emily Wierenga discusses what our kids need to know about third-world gratitude (hint: being around third world kids reveals the hearts of our own children by comparison, and probably our own.)

Jamie the VWM talks about her distaste for short term missions and why $30,000 might not be such a terrible waste of money.

Micha Boyett shares the pain of miscarriage, a grief that many couples will be experiencing all over again this holiday season.

And Holley Gerth talks about what introverts like me can offer this holiday season, outside of awkward and painful small talk about the local weather.

That’s it from me! I will see you next week.

I have a confession to make.worship_by_knilvrie

I have spent my life in church. A preacher’s kid, then a seminary grad. Now, after seven years of house church ministry, my wife and I are embarking on a new chapter. We don’t even know what the chapter is. There is no invitation to another church, no greener pasture that we are making a break for. We have done this thing longer than the average pastor stays at a full time church ministry.

What we do know is that making a transition, finding a new place is going to be hard. We both feel like we have some odd angles, some characteristics that make it challenging for us to settle into a new place. She is a raving introvert, while I am an introvert who can act like an extrovert…sort of.

And what we find to be the case is that church is a decidedly extroverted place. A bunch of extroverts usually stand up front. By and large, modern worship, church life and leadership values extrovertism over characteristics, such as contemplativeness.

And so, as we prepare to embark on a transition we are both kind of dreading, it makes me think of all of the churches I have visited, all of the places I have worshiped (or at least tried to worship.) It makes me think of all the reasons that two pretty introverted people have kind of a tough time with church, even though we love it.

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