A reflection of my dearest friends at Friendsgiving.

Friendsgiving: A Reflection

The happiest time of year.

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The reflection this year marked four years of Friendsgivings. Each year I strive to try a different focus and add new topics or lessons for us to think about and learn from, as stepping stones to build up! Also, this year would be different because we included a close friend of ours in Houston, Texas. While he was not physically in the room with the 20 plus of us, he was there in spirit, listening via FaceTime. Then, we began.

"Each year I try to put together a reflection for us that builds upon the previous year, and as many of us know, we've talked about friendship, the act of giving, family, thankfulness, and why each of these has a relative meaning to this gathering. This year would be different from those, as there is no 'written speech' while a few of you tend to ask me, leading up to this moment. The 'speech' is right here, in this brain – even rehearsed a few times in recordings.

I have wanted to do this particular item since we started these at the Megans' apartment, and always failed to plan and coordinate for it to happen. Today that changes. We have someone waiting for us, and now we are going to FaceTime to get a hold of that person!

'Hello there! How are you? Can you hear us?'

'Yes, sir!'

'Good. Steve, say hello.'

'Everybody, say hi to Steve!'

'Mike, no one can see Steve – you have the camera pointed to the ceiling, you doofus.'

'Sorry, let me fix that (everyone is waving, three full tables).'

Now, Steve is with us, at this moment. What he doesn't know is that he is a focal point to what we talk about today, which I promise will not take long – many of you are hungry. As many of you know, Steve took a chance and moved his entire life to Houston, Texas. While not knowing if he would like it or be successful; he took a serious chance. When I first visited him a few years ago, we had a very deep conversation one of the nights about leaving home. I remembered asking him, 'so, do you miss home? What is it like to be here and not know a whole lot of anyone or anything? Is it hard being away from family?'

Steve may not remember his answer, but once I share with all of you what he said – I know he will remember it immediately. At that moment, after I asked my question, Steve responded, 'I don't miss the physical places, Westchester or Chicago necessarily, but I miss the people. Moreover, if I could take those people with me here, then everything would be right. Everything would be perfect.'

There I was, much taken back, and frankly, off guard from what he shared. In addition, that statement says a lot about the people who are in this room, today.

Now – I want to preface this and say that if you do not want to participate in this final piece, you do not have to participate! All I ask is that you be here, at this moment.

For the rest of you, please close your eyes. Focus on your breathing for a couple of seconds. Let go of any thoughts or ideas in your mind, silence them. Let this rooms silence soothe and relax you.

I am going to share a series of prompts with you, which do not require any answering aloud. However, make sure to think about them, and what comes to mind is important! First, think of a dark, a cold, troubling, scary, sad, or challenging time in your life. You probably wanted to extract yourself from the world and not have anyone bother you. I am sure people reached out and talked, and comforted you. How did that make you feel? How did they support you?

Now, let us look at the flip side of the coin. Think of a happy, powerful, strong, uplifting, or joyful memory in your life. I am sure there are many, and think of as many as you would like! Who were the people with you or around you to share that point of time? What was their presence like in that moment? How did it make you feel?

It is very likely that either of your memories, good or bad, or both, included someone in this room here. It could be the person sitting next to you, across from you, back at home, a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt, brother or sister – anyone.

Today, we all decided to come together. We could be doing anything today, but we committed our weekend schedule to be together to celebrate friendship. While life continues to move forward, it's crucial to take time to remember moments. Regardless of how big or small, those moments are an incredible foundation for our family, which continues to grow out. Remember the little moments, because those are the building blocks, the bricks, to the home we built call family – they are the ones that matter most – they provide shelter and love. Thank you for deciding to come together today."

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10 Bible Verses For Thanksgiving

Psalm 34:1
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The Thanksgiving season is a time we spend with our loved ones giving thanks for the blessings we are given. Here are 20 Bible verses that remind us of what Thanksgiving is all about:

1) 1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

2) Colossians 3:15-17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

3) Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

4) Psalm 30:12

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

5) Isaiah 12:4-5

And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

6) Hebrews 12:28-29

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

7) Jonah 2:9

But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay Salvation is from the Lord."

8) 1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

9) Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

10) Psalm 100:4

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name.

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To The Grinches Who Stole Thanksgiving For Black Friday

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but in recent years more and more stores are succumbing to “Black Thursday" hours.

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For the last 10 years, retail stores have been opening earlier and earlier in celebration of the highest grossing shopping day of the year: Black Friday. So far have these stores gone, now many stores are open most of the day on Thursday, Thanksgiving as well. Ask any person forced to work on this family holiday, and they will most likely tell you they hate it.

This year, my Aunt Alleen couldn't even attend our 2' o clock dinner because Walmart wouldn't relent. While the CEOs of these big chains eat turkey with their families, those at the mercy of their corporate decisions cannot even see their families enjoy a simple eggnog. This isn't right.

I'm guilty of going to the stores during Thursday night, too. Enticed by the crowds and comfort retail provides, I joined the masses. Everywhere I looked I saw overwrought Starbucks baristas, exasperated Target salespeople, and one lonely kitchen store owner whom shoppers seemed to overlook. Next year, I won't join the "Festivities" until after midnight--when it is actually Friday. Although it isn't shoppers fault for overworking the holiday staff, it supported by us as long as we choose to shop during the day on Thanksgiving. Although many stores open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, we forget that many of them have to come in hours earlier to prepare for the purge. People like my Aunt, don't even get to celebrate with their family--only their corporate family. Only those in relatively low paying retail jobs must sacrifice their sacred time, and that's a classicism trap if I've ever seen one.

To the workers who couldn't see their families on Thanksgiving, I'm truly sorry. This is a clear example of how capitalism creates a culture of greed, even on the one day set aside for the opposite.

The longer we allow things to go on like this, the more likely a Black Thursday will cement as a cultural norm. So what can we do when it is up to the ever ambiguous "The Man"? We can write, call, and contact local representatives to protest this injustice. We can boycott certain stores and support others who forgo Black Thursday vocally and online. If you're a worker, this becomes more difficult. You don't want to risk your job, so you don't speak out. It's almost unconstitutional that it operates this way--free speech includes speech against unfair practices.

Next holiday season, don't be a Grinch. Just wait until midnight to shop, if not the next morning.

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