Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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Thanksgiving (in reverse)

November 23rd, 2010 · 5 Comments · Faith and the City

A couple of years ago, The Journal of Personal Social Psychology described an interesting study at UVA.

In it, college students wrote essays in which they were asked to “mentally subtract” a positive event or person from their lives.  The exercise was intended to stimulate the “George Bailey effect”—recalling the classic Frank Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life, in which George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart–that fine Presbyterian) experiences a world in which he never existed.

“Imagine your life,” the students were challenged, “without a major blessing.  What would it be like?”

The responses that came back surprised the researchers with their power and poignancy, as students imagined life without certain friends or mentors, without parents or partners.  Most of them also remarked that the exercise made them want to rush out and say “Thank you” to these people!

The whole thing has made me think…

What would life be like without the sweet blessings that have steadied us, shaped us, empowered us, and comforted us?  It is not the most joyous thing to imagine, but it’s a good thing; especially if, like those Virginia students, it makes us want to hop on the phone and call people… saying, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

I thank God for all of you, good readers, and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • AnnelieseNo Gravatar

    You are one of those sweet blessings for the whole Crawford family, Scott. Happy Thanksgiving !

  • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

    It struck me upon reading this that Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church wouldn’t be in its current, wonder-full growth phase without you, Rev. Scott. You bring all of who you are to this church — and your investment is precious. Thank you, very much.

  • Kyle Mohr

    Just was catching up on your posts, so this is off topic (comments are turned off on old posts)–though if I can make it on topic it would be to say thanks for your posts and for places encourage faith sharing.

    Off topic–Your post about The Big Sort was particularly interesting. I feel like I find the effects of that sorting process every day, and having lived in various regions of the country and now Canada, it’s quite disconcerting to see people’s very opinionated views of “the people” from “that area”. In New York, it’s the Mid-West. In Canada, it’s the U.S. I feel we’ve reached a point where people make complete judgements on others based on one thing–that stupid red/blue map that pops up during every election. I heard one guy, actually not from the US, state “It’s sort of scary how many states are Red on that map.” Scary?? Really? I mean…you’ve met no one from these places, certainly haven’t lived there, and apparently have reached some dystopian conclusion about each and every one of the people who live there?

    Moving on, I do think it’s quite natural for people to flock together to like minded individuals. I actually find myself often feeling like a fish out of water, being a Christian in many environments where religion is looked down upon. It makes it quite hard, living day in and day out in those places, without many colleagues who hold similar values…and being around those who publicly ridicule my own.

  • Raleigh

    I just read the news that the Westboro Baptist Church (has once again lost its mind and) is planning to picket Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral this weekend. Now, I’m a God-fearing, God-loving Christian, and I met Elizabeth Edwards on the campaign trial in ’09, in a small Presbyterian Church in New Hampshire no less, where she was stumping for her husband. She was, without question, one of the most simply faithful people I’ve ever encountered. I know she had her grief with God, but I trust she and He will come to eternity on their own terms, and that’s just that. But how are we, as Christians, supposed to react to this kind of action taken in our name? I wonder if this is what most normal Muslims feel like – having their faith hijacked for some sort of extreme cause. I know that what WBC preaches is hate, and to me, God is all love. But they make it so hard to find a way to show THEM love, and to show THEM mercy, and I’m just wondering if you have any advice. (unrelated to this blog post, which was excellent as always, by the way.)

    • SBJNo Gravatar


      This is such an important question. I too want to bang my head against the wall when “Christian” communities act in such clearly un-Jesus-like ways. After I have bruised my noggin, here’s what i usually do:

      1) I remember that God is bigger than anything that we do;

      2) a professor of mine once said, “God’s great risk is entrusting us with the good news, because we do mess it up and… yes… pervert it at times.”

      3) Somehow, however, by the grace of God, the truth does shine through. Your comments about Elizabeth Edwards are one way that is happening.

      4) In the end, I am confident that the ways in which we corrupt God’s love fall away. They cannot and will not stand. Until then, until all is perfect, we remain vigilant, candid, and hopeful.