November is a month most of us express thanks for all that we have — for home, family, friends and faith.
If this holiday track meet left you frazzled, I want to offer you a choice of two very different running lanes. First, you can align yourself with denial and tell yourself that you are only spending more this year so that you'll have more to be thankful over next year.
Choice No. 2 is to pause before you get trapped in the StuffMart or CostlyCo aisles, and recite what I like to call the Black Friday prayer.
While you'll likely recognize the prayer as "The Lord's Prayer," let's reframe it to see how it might be said to rescue us from our manic materialism.
The opening salutation, "Our Father," is best read in the tone of a small child who is asking a loving parent for help. The words assert that God alone is the giver of all good things, not credit cards.
"Who art in heaven." These words may sound like a description of a detached deity, but in truth, God contains the world. That means that our money can't buy our world, so why do we try?
"Hallowed be thy name." There seems little that is hallowed today, but when we find that hallowedness in God, it should reflect something outside of our own name and holiday wish lists.
"Thy Kingdom come" doesn't mean that we're sitting around waiting for God to come to us. It means that we must invite the presence of God into our own lives. It means that God's presence always outshines the pretense of presents.
"Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." This part means that seeking God's will in my life is not seeking an earthly plan. Simply put, I've never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse, so I don't think God wants me to accumulate more earthly goods than are useful for heavenly purposes. Reciting this part of the prayer makes it nearly impossible to exceed your credit card limit.
"Give us this day our daily bread." The recovering alcoholic knows this as the key to living one day at a time, but the recovering shopper should see this as a way to express gratitude for the gifts we find in today, not the presents we'll return tomorrow.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This plea for forgiveness reminds me that God forgives me my selfish ways and that my overspending transgressions of the past don't have to be repeated today.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." This phrase reminds me that I am powerless before my shopping addictions, and I can only overcome them with God's help.
While Protestants add the closing line, "For thine is the Kingdom, the power, the glory, forever," both Catholic and Protestants end with "Amen," which means, "Let all of this be so!"
I have to believe the last phrase is the best part of prayer, as the word "This" points to the holiness God bestows in our lives through the fulfillment of this prayer.
NORRIS BURKES is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and the author of "No Small Miracles." He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board certified in the Assn. of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at (321) 549-2500 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.thechaplain.net. Write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759.