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Monday, November 27, 2017

Buckets of Blessings

We certainly live in a culture of more. The National Retail Federation estimates nearly 164 million people (or roughly 70 percent of us) had plans to shop sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend. That began with the pre-Black Friday openings on Thanksgiving Day and conclude today on Cyber Monday. Some 48 percent of people were set to shop online for deals today.

Newspaper ads tell me Black Friday shopping now begins sometime in October. I also read that until recently, you could actually find lower prices on line for tech products on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday. From the retail numbers reported in past years, we should actually just rename this Monday “Amazon Day” as they get the bulk of the business.

In the culture of more, it’s proven that a rising number of shoppers are using Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an opportunity for “self-gifting.” Buying for friends and family usually occurs in December. Simply stated, early Christmas shopping has developed into more for ME! Like most of us NEED more.

In light of this craze for more, I found a refreshing Fast Company article this past week titled, How Making a “Reverse” Bucket List Can Make You Happier. Most of us are familiar with the “bucket list” concept. It gained renown in a 2007 comedy-drama movie that featured Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It grossed over $175 million dollars.

The film’s plot follows two terminally ill men (portrayed by Nicholson and Freeman) on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they "kick the bucket." Their adventures included skydiving together, flying over the North Pole and checking out the beauty and history of Taj Mahal, India, among many other pursuits. Thank goodness Nicholson had money!

Most of us would not have quite the extravagance on our bucket lists. Perhaps a trip to the Grand Canyon. Run a marathon. Learn to play an instrument. Maybe do that skydiving thing. Maybe.

In the professional life, “more” is about achievement and recognition. Making more money. Getting bigger promotions. Receiving grand awards for performance.

As the Fast Company article states, “The reverse bucket list is pretty straightforward: Rather than writing down all of the things you hope to one day achieve, you instead write down a list of all the things you’ve already accomplished, things that make you feel proud. It’s the exact opposite of a regular bucket list–and it’s an encouraging exercise.”

What I most liked about this concept was the specific tie-in to gratitude. Cited was a 2015 study found in the Journal of Positive Psychology. It reviewed how “grateful recounting” actually enhances a person’s overall well being. Participants in the study recalled three good things from the previous 48 hours. They briefly wrote about them every day for a week. Doing this increased the recall of positive memories. And by routinely recalling these positive experiences, it sparked an increase in their subjective well-being.

I’ve done a variation on this theme for a while that I would recommend to you also. It involves keeping track of God’s unexpected blessings in your life. They come in a variety of ways. Something as simple as thanking God for getting you safely back and forth to work all of 2017. Or contact that surfaced with a long-lost friend. A surprise financial blessing, perhaps. I assure you…there is an abundance for which to be thankful.

In the world of more, I think we could use a lot more of these kinds of reflections. The reverse bucket list. And the buckets of blessings.

For starters, read Psalm 23! In The Passion Translation it starts out this way, “The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough.” (Ps. 23:1, TPT) The rest of that psalm adds colorful reminders upon which to reflect.

And the best part? These are the blessings that money can’t buy.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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