If You’re Working On Thanksgiving, Be Thankful

FullSizeRenderMy first day on the job at Kohls was Thanksgiving.

2 years ago, and just a few months out from stepping away from a full time youth ministry job, I decided to take a part time job at the retail giant to make some extra cash for Christmas.

I did a few training shifts in the week before the holiday but my first official shift on the register was Thanksgiving night at 8 PM.

This was the first time Kohls and many other stores would actually be open on Thanksgiving night itself instead of opening in the early hours of Black Friday – a trend that is only continuing to grow.

I remember staring at the clock at dinner that night, counting down the hours, dreading the moment I would have to leave the pumpkin pie behind to go risk being trampled by a sea of crazed customers busting down the doors seeking half-priced Keurigs.

I only worked a four hour shift that night. But it felt twice as long. The customers never stopped coming. And I was back on the clock at 4 PM the next day for another 8 hour shift, and then again the next day for the same.

Over the past 13 years I’ve worked my fair number of jobs, and that Thanksgiving weekend at Kohls was one of the most challenging I’ve ever had.

No one wants to be working on Black Friday, much less on Thanksgiving day itself. 

Some of us would rather be spending time with our families. The rest would rather be out shopping getting the mega deals for ourselves.

It would be easy to add to the chorus decrying the deplorable business practices of companies who open their doors on Thanksgiving, basically forcing employees who need the cash and want to keep their jobs to spend time away from their family.

The problem is Thanksgiving sales make money – why else would companies keep doing it? You and I may not like the idea of it. Yet despite a few companies pledging to keep their doors closed on the holiday the practice is only going to get more popular in the years to come.

So instead of blasting corporations for their questionable business practices, let’s try to change the culture from the inside.

If you’re working on Thanksgiving or anytime around the holidays, here’s a radical piece of advice: be thankful.

I’d love to blame my bad attitude when I worked on Thanksgiving on the corporate braintrust who opened the store or the customers who came in the door. Really though I think the problem was with myself.

You see God challenges us to be thankful in every circumstance:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

All circumstances. That includes, whether we like it or not, being thankful while working a shift no one should ever have to work.

But how? How can you give thanks for something you’re not really grateful for?

To do so you have to take a minute to step back from your anger and reflect on your situation.

Instead of viewing your holiday shift as a burden, look at it as an opportunity. 


Shopping on these days can be demoralizing and exhausting not just for the workers but for the customers too. Holiday sales tend to bring out the worst in humanity.

Rather than add to the misery with a frown on your face and an attitude of annoyance, encourage the customers who come in your store. Make them smile if only for a moment.

Be patient with them. Pay them a compliment. Let them know about a discount or a coupon they might be missing out on on.

Move beyond the script you normally recite when ringing up a sale and try to make an honest human connection for a few seconds.

When they get upset about an item being out of stock or the way you wrap their Christmas ornament up, turn the other cheek. Let their frustrations and bad attitudes roll right off your back.

Be thankful for each interaction you get to have with a customer. Trust God is using you right where you are, even if you wish you weren’t there.

The problem of working on Thanksgiving day is going to get worse before it gets better. I can honestly envision a world in the near future where having Thanksgiving day off is more of a rarity than it is commonplace for most of the workforce.

You may not be able to change the practice of working on Thanksgiving. But you can change the culture surrounding it.

That’s why I love this tweet from writer Allison Vesterfelt:

If you’re on the floor of a department store this Thanksgiving weekend, know that God is using you on the frontline of a holiday battle.  Instead of seeing yourself as the victim view your self as a warrior armed with the weapon of gratitude and the ability to influence every person you interact with.

Believe that even though you don’t want to be there, you’re there for a reason. Instead of voicing complaints, give thanks in every circumstance – including the ones you’re not excited about.

I’d love to hear from you: Are you working this Thanksgiving weekend? Have you in the past? How can you stay thankful in a situation you’re ungrateful for? Leave a comment and let me know:

What Really Happens When You’re The Last Man On Earth

“The Last Man On Earth” betrayed its title in the very first episode.

If you haven’t watched the hilarious Fox show, now in its second season, that’s not really a spoiler. You can tell from any commercial that Will Forte’s character finds out fairly quickly into the series that he is not actually the last living human who survived some sort of massive viral outbreak.

I think “The Last Man On Earth” is the funniest and most creative show on television today. Every week the show surprises me as it adds depth to a seemingly simple premise and creatively increases the stakes for its oddball cast of survivors.

I also appreciate how the show has made the lead character Phil an unapologetically, unlikable jerk.

You see the show isn’t really about one man living alone on the planet. Instead, it’s a comedy about a man who thought he was alone on Earth but who keeps running into fellow survivors and finds himself falling into the same bad habits he did when the world was normal.

We get a sense that Phil was probably not all that likable of a person before the outbreak on the show happened. On most shows the apocalyptic circumstances of the world would change Phil in some way. He would get a wake up call on the life he was living and grow to be a better person from episode to episode.

Instead, Phil remains a terrible person even after all he’s been through. He’s still selfish and sex-crazed. He’s still a liar and power hungry. He’s still judgmental and cowardly.

Being one of the last people on Earth hasn’t turned Phil into a hero. It’s only confirmed who he was all along. 

I think this is more like what really happens when we face life’s most difficult circumstances.

A lot of us hope that if we were to face some sort of traumatic life event that it would bring out some sort of hidden power and strength buried deep inside of us. We believe somehow we would rise to the occasion and change to be better people as we adjust to our new reality.

Sometimes that means we wait on our circumstances to change before we work on changing ourselves.

The truth is you cannot rely on your circumstances to bring out a better person inside of you.

If you’re a jerk to people most of the time, chances are a catastrophic chain of events isn’t going to magically bring out a better side of you. It will only reinforce the character that you already have.

I’m not saying people can never change their character. Quite the opposite. The good news is you don’t have to wait until you’re faced with a “Last Man On Earth” situation to work on becoming a better person.

For the true heroes in stories are the ones who were already heroes before they ever faced their challenge, the ones who strive every day to live and to love as if they had nothing to lose. Any traumatic situations they face do not increase their strength of character but instead reinforce it.

Rather than waiting on the world to change us, we should be working every day to become more like the people God created us to be. 

And Still

ronda-rousey-ufcRonda Rousey just needs a minute of your time – if that.

Rousey is the top female Ultimate Fighter in the world – and arguably the best in the world overall right now. She’s undefeated in her 12 professional fights. And she’s a huge favorite to defeat #1 contender Holly Holm this Saturday night.

Yet all of that doesn’t even begin to describe Rousey’s awesomeness. She doesn’t just win fights. She annihilates and obliterates the competition. Rarely do her fights ever get out of the first 5 minute round – if even the first minute of that round:


Though her fights last mere seconds, the exhilaration of seeing her completely steamroll her opponents is incomparable.

Ronda Rousey doesn’t get paid by the hour. She doesn’t overthink her strategy. She doesn’t play it safe. She walks into the cage and starts swinging like she means business.

I think that’s her key to victory. And that’s why fight after fight you see the hashtag “#AndStill” trending on social media. Because after each of her fights the announcer proclaims, “The winner, AND STILL UFC Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey!”

Maybe we should approach our fights in life more like Ronda Rousey.

A lot of times when we have a major challenge in front of us we hem and haw over how to handle it.

We debate the pros and cons. We weigh the analytics over each option. We stress ourselves and our family and friends out as we wait until the last minute to decide what to do.

We approach the fight cautiously doing everything we can to avoid getting hurt – to avoid even getting a scratch on us if possible.

What if instead we fought life’s battles like Ronda Rousey? What if we just started swinging?

What if we realized we really didn’t have time in life to stretch our fights out? What if we believed that if we just started attacking the obstacles in front of us with ferocious intensity we could actually defeat them in mere moments?

Now sure, one day Rousey’s ways will probably catch up to her. No fighter finishes their career undefeated. And in life’s battles our strategy will not always work the way we expect.

Fighting with the ferocity of Ronda Rousey means that we leave ourselves open to get punched in the face as well. When we face our struggles swinging we’re more likely to end up getting a few scratches and cuts on us as well.

Thankfully as followers of Christ we know that no matter what happens when we enter the cage God will remain in our corner. Even if the fight knocks us out we know that He will lift us back onto our feet.

So instead of playing it safe we can have confidence in every challenge knowing He is the Ultimate Champion who fights for us every day. We can come out swinging against our opponents knowing that in each and every fight we can rely on Him and still He will not let us down.

And still He will restore us.

And still He will not forsake us.

And still He will forgive us.

And still He will redeem us.

And still He will fight for us.

And still He will reign victorious. 

Your Mistakes Give You Meaning

trump.thm_If you’re in the public eye and you want to find redemption for a public mistake, there’s really only one place to go: Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, a.k.a. the main stage of “Saturday Night Live”.

Actors who take themselves a little too seriously. Celebrities who say the wrong thing on social media. Politicians involved in some sort of scandal.

We’ve seen them all take the stage on SNL over the years.  Just this weekend presidential candidate Donald Trump – a phrase that will never not be hilarious and slightly disturbing at the same time – hosted the show. Over the course of the evening the show roasted his blusterous personality, his reputation as a racist and his tendency to trash his other political candidates.

That’s the catch with coming on Saturday Night Live – you have to be willing make fun of your mistakes.

As the viewing audience we’re a lot more willing to forgive someone’s flubs if they’re willing to make fun of themselves. If we see a celebrity admitting that they made a mistake and ready to laugh at themselves about it, we love to laugh with them. Celebrities – they’re just like us!

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the ability to embrace their mistakes makes these celebrities more powerful and more influential. We’re willing to listen to what they have to say because they were willing to humiliate themselves for a moment.

I’m not saying Donald Trump is going to win the presidency because he hosted SNL. I am saying that no matter how bad his episode was (and it was atrociously unfunny) Trump came out as a winner because he was willing to make fun of his flaws.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to harness the power of embracing your mistakes. This strategy can work for any of us.

There’s a great verse in the Proverbs that says:

Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12)

If you want to be successful you can’t pretend to be perfect. The facade wouldn’t last for long anyway.

Instead you have to have humility before you have honor. You have to be willing to take yourself down a peg if you want to move up the ladder of success.

As much as we would rather hide our imperfections in order to make people think more of us, the truth is being willing to make fun of our flaws allows us to connect with people on a deeper level.

Embracing your mistakes. Laughing at your past follies. The ability to do these things well harnesses trust.

You don’t have to be a celebrity in the midst of a scandal to see how meaningful this strategy can be. Whether with your family, friends or coworkers try to be more willing to laugh at your mistakes than hide from them.

Most of the time people will laugh with you, not at you, and feel a deeper connection to you because they can relate to making the same mistakes. You’ll allow people to see beyond the public facade and connect to you, the real human being, flaws and all.

Your mistakes give you meaning. If you’re willing to embrace them they won’t take away from your influence – they will expand it.

For more wisdom from the “Saturday Night Live” stage check out these posts:

How SNL Made Me A Better Youth Minister

Live Like It’s Live

I’ll Never

Everyone has a pop culture blindspot.

Whether it’s for lack of time or lack of funds or just a general lack of interest we all have those movies or tv shows or books that it seems like everyone in the world has experienced except for us.

spectre1208141280jpg-398894_1280wOne of my biggest pop culture blindspots is James Bond.

This may come as a shock to you, but it’s true – I, a 29-year-old red blooded movie-loving male, have never seen a 007 movie.

I don’t really know how it happened. Maybe watching wrestling satisfied all my testosterone needs in pop culture. I don’t have any moral objection to the Bond series.

If someone were able to make a case for wanting to show me one of the movies I think I would sit down and watch one. But there’s no way I’m going to ever dive through the entire Bond history.

At this point in my life I know I’ll probably just never start watching a James Bond movie on my own. I’ve come to the realization that – even with hopefully many more happy and healthy years in front of me – I just can’t experience everything this world has to offer.

With the amount of quality entertainment in the landscape today and the incredible ease of access we have to it, at a certain point you just have to resign that there are some pop culture phenomena you’re never going to get around to experiencing.

I’m ok with never watching a James Bond movie. But there are some things that I’m not ok with never doing. Continue reading

Run Onto The Field

IMG_6098Last weekend I ran on the field after a Clemson football game.

You didn’t see it on the news. I wasn’t streaking or trying to tackle one of the players. It’s actually part of the tradition at Death Valley for students and fans to be able to run onto the field and celebrate with the home team after every victory.

We joined arms with the sweaty players who had just busted their tails for 4 quarters to secure a Tigers victory and sang the alma mater alongside them. We even got a selfie with Coach Dabo in the background. It was a fabulous end to a perfect day of tailgating and college football.

Now, I grew up a Tennessee fan and I never thought I’d see myself pulling for another shade of orange on Saturdays. But my wife’s family’s affection for Clemson is pretty infectious. The way the team treats it’s fans is a big part of that. Continue reading

How To Ruin A Zombie Movie

Zombies are hot right now.

Whereas it seemed a few years ago that every horror movie wanted to focus on vampires in the shadow of “Twilight”, now we’re being bombarded with zombie movies and tv shows in the wake of “The Walking Dead”. Chances are this Halloween as you’re counting up your candy you’ll be watching some sort of zombie-tainment.

Zombie_design_for_Zombieland,_mainEvery form of zombie-tainment follows a pretty simple formula: some sort of infestation has devastated the world’s population. The infected become some sort of half-dead lumbering creatures whose sole mission is to feast on human flesh and brains in order to survive. Those who are still living do their best to run and survive.

That’s all well and good if you want to have a hit in Hollywood right now. Just cut and paste that synopsis, toss in some sort of romantic plot amongst the group of survivors, and boom – you’ll be $100 million richer in no time.

There is, however, a way you can ruin the seemingly foolproof formula of a zombie movie: instead of attacking others, have the zombies start serving others.
Continue reading