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November 29, 2013

No Reason to Give Thanks?

Culture Challenge of the Week: Holiday Grumbles

"I hate the holidays," the grocery lady said to me as I was checking out.

She shook her head. "Too much stress. Can't wait 'til it's over."

She's not alone in her feelings.

This week is Thanksgiving, and the mad Christmas shopping scramble has already begun. As relatives descend, it's all too easy to focus on the shopping, cooking, and cleaning that underlie holiday preparations. In the process, we forget what we’re celebrating. We're too busy getting ready for, then serving, then cleaning up from Thanksgiving to actually give thanks.

Christmas becomes the same. We decorate, make lists, buy presents, prepare menus, and over-schedule the calendar with 'can't miss' social obligations. We hurtle through Christmas, making it just right for everyone but, in our heart of hearts, we can't wait 'til it's over. Holiday stress, on top of 'ordinary' life stresses—health challenges, work troubles, financial struggles, insurance woes, and relationship issues—can become the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Stop. Right now.

It doesn't have to be this way.

There's only one thing that's truly necessary in order to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas well: a heart that wants to love others. The gifts, parties, and sumptuous family dinners are wonderful ways to express our love and celebrate the Lord's goodness in our lives. But we need to keep our focus on the heart of the matter: The greatest happiness in our lives comes from the "stuff" (or stuffing) that fills us temporarily, but from the rich relationships that we lovingly tend over time.

We can't make the ordinary stresses of life go away. But we can take time this holiday to simplify and refocus on relationships. We can become the light in others’ lives, creating joy and bringing miracles where hope has slipped away.

So how do you get everyone on the same page, refocusing on what’s important and letting all the rest go?

How to Save Your Family: Light a Candle

I've got a practical suggestion to get you started.

Go, as a family, to see a wonderful movie, The Christmas Candle, that opens over the Thanksgiving holidays. Based on the book by Max Lucado, The Christmas Candle is an intriguing, heartwarming story sure to inspire even the most jaded heart.

As Max Lucado said of the movie, "Don't underestimate the power of story" to inspire others towards goodness, to help them see the power of giving, to find joy and hope—even when they feel they've got nothing left.

After all, that's how the townspeople in the movie's fictional village of Gladbury feel about life—they're beaten down, cynical and struggling in the face of unexpected challenges. Into this situation comes a reluctant preacher who, building on the town's legend of a miraculous Christmas Candle, challenges the people in unexpected ways, with extraordinary results.

I won't give away the story, but it's too good to miss. (Well-acted, the films stars top actors from films like the Hobbit, Braveheart, and Les Miserables, has received great advance reviews, and has a family-friendly PG rating.)

More importantly, it's an opportunity for us to bring our families together, to celebrate goodness and to remember the 'reason why' we come together, in life, not just for the holidays. This movie will help you re-imagine the goodness and joy that’s within your power to create.

Light a candle and pray.

This season, the best is yet to come.

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