No politics at thanksgiving dinner

American Thanksgiving 2020 is only a couple of weeks away. There are so many events that have happened this year that should lead to being extra thankful at the dinner table, but when you get family together who have differing views it’s easy for gratitude to be overpowered by heated arguments.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”

Proverbs 15:18

If you know that a family Thanksgiving gathering is going to lead to heated arguments, fights, and emotional wounds that may never heal; it’s alright to say no to an invite. A holiday gathering is no longer meaningful if it becomes an uncomfortable afternoon of attacks and arguments.

If you choose to attend a family Thanksgiving dinner knowing it will become a very tense environment here are a few ideas to help you deal with those you have strong differing views with.

1. Let relatives know that you are aren’t going to discuss politics. They are free to discuss and argue, but let them know you won’t be participating.

2. Don’t initiate any discuss about politics. Even if you are the type of person to keep the conversation civil and neutral, others might not be able to do so.

3. If you are travelling to spend time with family, limit the number of days you spend with them. You don’t need to spend your entire holidays from work with them. Maybe 2 days is better for you than 4 days.

4. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your battles. Holiday get togethers aren’t the time or place to be trying to change someone’s mind. Some people will go to their graves holding on to their beliefs no matter how harmful they are.

5. Find family activities that don’t involve a lot of talking. Board games, card games, video, etc. allow family to interact with each other while having fun.

6. Find out if there are any inhouse rules they might have regarding COVID19. If they ask you to wear a mask, do so. If they don’t believe in wearing masks and think COVID19 is just a flu, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to take the risk.

However you spend your Thanksgiving holidays and whom ever you spend it with, do your best not to get into emotionally driven arguments. No one enjoys themselves when this happens. We all want to make the world we live in a more justice filled place, but arguing at dinner, trying to prove a point, and working to change someone’s point of view has never changed the world for the better.

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

2 Timothy 2:23-24

Pray for your Enemies?

Praying for one’s enemy is a spiritual exercise and altruistic value that is taught within Christianity. It is also something that is unnatural, and this might explain why loving, forgiving, and being kind to those who hurt us is heavily emphasized in the bible. The idea of praying for our enemies seems to be a strange thing to do, probably because it IS a strange thing to do.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5: 44-45

O.K…. Jesus has made it clear, pray for our enemies. But I’m concerned about what some people think is involved in praying for those who cause us harm.

Praying for those who continue to harm us is involves:

-Praying they will change their harmful behaviour

-Praying that they will be transformed for the better

-Praying that they see the error of their ways and the harm they have caused others

-Praying the person(s) involved in an offense make amends with those they have hurt (only if it is safe for the victims)

-Pray for the person to develop a Christ-like heart

-Praying for wisdom and guidance about how to deal with the person

-Praying for courage to protect and stand up for ourselves

Praying for our enemies doesn’t involve:

-Praying that others die or are harmed. This is called revenge; we are not called to be spiteful.

-Praying ill-will on their family

-Praying to God by asking him to do horrible things to others

-Ignoring the wrongs that a person has done

-Praying for a quick recovery so the person can rapidly return to the same destructive behaviour they engaged in before becoming sick

-Forcing others to pray for YOUR enemy. Prayer is heart-filled, intimate communication with God, it needs to be voluntary.

-Thinking that because we as Christians believe in praying for our enemies, it means that others are bad people if they don’t pray as well.

Prayer helps us remain focused. When we are emotionally driven, our thoughts are all over the place; we begin to lose control and are no longer thinking rationally. Nothing makes an enemy happier than seeing the people they are harming fall apart.

Engaging in the spiritual discipline of prayer also helps to prevent self destructive responses to the harm inflicted upon us. Praying before we act gives us time to slow down, identify what we are experiencing and feeling, and make smarter decisions. Praying for our enemies is as much a benefit for ourselves as it is for others.

Social MEdia overwhelm

2020 has proven to be an overwhelming year. So much is happening, much of it out of our control. I decided to spend the weekend focusing on the things I could control. I was feeling frustrated with wearing masks that left me feeling like someone had a pillow over my face all day, and the continuous limitations placed on us by pandemic bylaws and provincial regulations. There was nothing I could do about this, but what I could control was the amount of time I spent on social media.

I asked myself what activities I could engage in that didn’t include social media; there were plenty.

I know a number of people say that social media is necessary during this time due to restricted in person contact. That might sound reasonable on the surface, but limiting social media isn’t about removing yourself from necessary online contact like work and school, virtual family visits, and keeping in touch with friends.

Limiting social media or taking social media breaks are about not taking in too much distressing news, and about not relying on social media to keep us distracted. I didn’t enjoy scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing endless posts about people being shot, murdered, and killed; corrupt politicians, arguments about wearing masks, and conspiracy theories that made me question the intelligence of people I have known for years.  When you are constantly bombarded by distressing news and information you eventually tune out and when that happens you risk not caring about things that matter in this world. You become desensitized to corruption, brutality, and injustice.


Something else that I’ve noticed during this pandemic is the level of envy and jealousy being expressed in comment sections. It’s alright for Jane and John Doe to have a good time during this season of upheaval. If they are the lucky ones who have been able to keep their jobs and maintain the same lifestyle pre-pandemic, let them enjoy themselves. Things may be rough for you right now, but trust and have faith that with time things will change. The job market and economy won’t always be bad.  

Stay focused on being thankful for what you do have; sometimes it’s hard to feel thankful when you are struggling and need assistance; but an angry, bitter, and jealous heart makes difficult times even worse.

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,…”  Galatians 6: 3-4

Who you are as a child of God has nothing to do with your job status, bank account balance, or social status. Excess social media during troubling times does not build you up, instead it can easily bring you down; this is why finding things to do off line is so important during times like this.

I’m sharing with you a list from the website Cultivate What Matters. It has some great and simple ideas about what you can do instead of spending too much time online.

46 Productive Things to Do Instead of Scrolling Social Media (2018)

and

Websites Other Than Social Media to Upgrade Your Life

Self-Reflection During Uncertain Times

I recently started re-reading the book “Let Your Life Speak” by parker J. Palmer. I’m still only in the first chapter, but I’ve had to stop multiple and meditate on what I’m taking in.

What’s resonating with me within the context of getting used to living life in the middle of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be slowing it’s spread of a potentially deadly virus is a line from the opening chapter, “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” It is from the poem ASK Me by William Stafford.

The past four months of isolation, social isolation, and more spare time that I ever cared to have has help me with doing a lot of soul searching. If and when this pandemic is over we’ll all be facing a future that is significantly different. A number of restaurants and eateries have closed, some of our favourite clothing and department stores have shut down for good, people are still working from home, and many people have ended up unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on businesses.

If your job, material goods, and your leisure activities defined you – who are you once those things are no longer available?

Isolation, quarantine, social distancing, and endless online meetings have revealed our weaknesses and our strengths. The rapid changes that have taken place are an opportunity to re-evaluate one’s life.

Some simple questions to ask one’s self:

-What have I missed the most?

-What have I missed the least?

-What are some new ways of doing things that I enjoy or like?

-What are some old ways of doing things that I hope we don’t return to?

-What are some new skills I’ve learned over the past few months?

-What has my outlook been like? Hopeful, anxious, confused, grief-filled, resistant, disbelieving, etc.

If you haven’t taken some quiet time for internal reflection during this COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to do so. It’s not a time to beat yourself up or make extreme unattainable goals; it’s simply a time to reflect on what you’ve been feeling, thinking, and doing during these times of instability and rapid changes.

Whatever your reflections reveal, remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.

Ask Me William Stafford

 

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