Last week, Black Friday pandemonium was unleashed in stores throughout the United States. Before the turkey of gratitude fully digested, shoppers fought over discounted flat screens and blue ray players. (Check out some of these scenes from Wal-mart.)
And so begins the “Christmas season.”
As I watched videos of panicked shoppers elbowing their way through aisles stacked high with luxuries, I could not help but compare this blackest of Friday’s with another one. Good Friday.
Here are my thoughts:
Black Friday is a day of “freedom” and indulgence and yet we call it black.
Good Friday is a day of death and suffering and yet we call it good.
On Black Friday shoppers accrue huge credit card bills.
On Good Friday our greatest bill was paid for us.
On Black Friday we take.
On Good Friday we receive.
Black Friday is a day when the nature of man blooms with selfishness and greed.
Good Friday is a day when the nature of God blooms with sacrifice and love.
On Black Friday we injure (and sometimes kill) our neighbor to get what we want.
On Good Friday our only innocent neighbor was injured and killed so we could get what we need.
Black Friday leads to deeper levels of slavery.
Good Friday leads to deeper levels of freedom.
The spirit of Black Friday will eventually lead to the destruction of society.
The spirit of Good Friday will lead to the establishment of a new society.
This Christmas season, I want to remember the child born not because we needed more things, but because we needed him. We needed someone to rescue us from our soul-crushing habits. We needed someone to set us free from our Black Friday hearts. We needed someone to pay the debt we could not afford.
This Christmas season I want to remember a child who was born in a manger, who died on a cross one Good Friday thirty years later, and rose to life three days after that.
I want to remember Good Friday instead of Black Friday, because I don’t need another sale, I need a savior. (tweet that?)
A Christmas Gift for You
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When Santa Came to Dinner:What the man in red taught me about the baby in the manger.
You know what’s one of the saddest thoughts? I would be an expert by now if I hadn’t quit.
Unfortunately, we’ve all thought that at some point.
My sweet wife started violin lessons after we got married. She had always wanted to play. She practiced every day. Slowly the screeches became notes and the notes became melodies—Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and then Bach’s Minuet.
She had a goal: to play Happy Birthday for her mother on her birthday. Her family didn’t know she was learning. The song would be a surprise. Her grandfather had been a well-known violinist on Vaudeville and his violin sat encased on the wall in the sitting room. Maybe, if she continued to improve, she could one day play her grandfather’s violin.
At her mom’s birthday party, everything went as planned. The song was beautiful. Her mom was pleased. She gained added incentive to continue learning her instrument.
One night, months later, some friends came over and we pulled out guitars. My wife ran upstairs to grab her violin. She started playing along—following the melody as best she could. It wasn’t perfect, but having heard her develop from the beginning, I was impressed.
One of our guests was not. He made a side comment about her scratchy sound. He suggested she stop. She was crushed.
That night the violin went into the case and did not come out again.
A few months ago she said to me, “Every time I see a violin I feel sad. It’s been almost ten years since I quit violin. Think how good I would be by now had I kept going!”
We all have our “violin” stories and we look back in sadness at what could have been. But what if we look forward?
Is this how you want to feel one day about your
I know I don’t want to feel this way. So I ask myself these questions:
Can I stay focused on a goal or dream for the long-term?
Can I survive the negative voices around me?
Will I let them crush my dream?
Too often, my answers have been No, No, and Yes. But not anymore. I’m moving forward. Because there is one way to guarantee future disappointment: quit. (tweet that?)
A Wise Word
A few weeks ago my wife started a new project, one she has dreamed about for years. In spite of the obstacles and challenges of living overseas with four small children, she started a Mom’s Encouragement group here in Sarajevo. Seventeen women attended the first event.
It’s Thanksgiving today—a day set aside for giving thanks. I am trying my best to be thankful for everything in my life, not just the good things. So I wanted to send you a note to say, “Thank you.”
Remember when I was a kid and I had that basketball goal set up in the driveway. It wasn’t one of those Wal-Mart goals with cinder blocks holding it down. It was a solid, regulation size goal set exactly to ten feet. I played almost every day.
You didn’t visit much then. I didn’t lose often. I was the oldest boy in the family and tall for my age. My younger siblings didn’t stand a chance. But when I did lose, I cried. I would run into my room and hide my tears in my pillow. You crushed me.
So I would try to explain you away—
the sun was in my eyes,
the wind was affecting my shot,
the ball didn’t have enough air,
the teams weren’t even.
I would say anything (believe anything) to remove the feeling of your presence.
By my teenage years, I had discovered a way to keep you away—never lose. If playing basketball, win. If playing checkers, win. If entering a math competition, win. You felt like death, so I avoided you at all costs.
I didn’t lose often. I was good at sports. I made straight A’s. I learned to avoid games I couldn’t win. Your visits were a rare blip on the road of success.
Then the road took a sharp turn.
My senior basketball season ended with a crushing defeat.
My university professors were not as impressed with me as my high school teachers had been.
My plans grew hazy and uncertain.
College was my first, real, prolonged encounter with you, failure. And I hated it.
But now, as I look back on that time, I am thankful.
You squashed my pride.
You redirected my future.
You toughened me up.
You pointed me towards God.
You weakened my fear.
You taught me how to win.
You produced future success.
So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for you. You have shaped me more than success ever did. You are a scalpel in the hand of a benevolent surgeon.
Thank you. I am sure I will see you again soon.
p.s. Last night when my car slid on the ice and I dented my neighbor’s car door and spent an hour filling out paperwork with the police—classic. I’m not ready to say “Thanks” yet. Hopefully you’ll hear from me soon.
p.p.s. Go easy on everyone today. A burned turkey or casserole can really ruin the day.
When life feels like a battle, don’t be surprised. You are in good company. Whether you are writing a book, making a movie, leading a nation, fighting slavery (as the following men were) or simply trying to raise children of character, everyone who strives to do work that matters will face opposition.
I hope these quotes help you fight your battles this week.
The idea of True Grit has been embedded in the American subconscious since the early days of its founding—gritty Pilgrims facing winter in the new world, gritty industrialists building a nation from the ground up, gritty pioneers heading west into the unknown. America was built on Grit.
In 1969, the concept played out on the big screen through John Wayne’s portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Perhaps it is fitting the film was remade by the Coen Brothers in 2010 (my personal favorite). Grit is once again a topic of conversation.
What if the Secret to Success is Failure (New York Times)
This is an excellent in-depth article by Paul Tough that pulls in a lot of the themes in other posts but is centered around case studies in education.
Join the growing tribe here at JoshIrby[dot]com and download the PDF for free.
About Josh Irby
Josh is a writer who lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina with his wife and three children. For more than a decade he has worked with university students, helping them tell better stories with their lives. If you come to Sarajevo, you will likely find him in the corner of a local cafe sipping a macchiato and talking with friends.
Check out Josh’s Book
Two travelers—150 years apart—find love and meaning in Sarajevo. A true story.