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Are You Inviting Stress in Your Life?

 Years ago, before it became popular to shop on Amazon and other retail websites, many of us attempted to finish Christmas shopping early to avoid the stress of crowds and limited inventory. I say "attempt" because, while we may have secured a gift or two by early November, we would inevitably find ourselves lured into shopping on Black Friday.

Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving is fraught with stress, beginning with the first daunting task of securing a parking spot without circling the lot for hours. Once parked, shoppers hope that no more than 50 people will be camped out, ready to be the first to enter the store. Regardless of the size of the crowd, the starting line is always a restless bunch. It's not uncommon to see more than 100 people lined up to rush the aisles, as if they're at the starting line of the Peachtree Road race.

Once inside the store, the experience feels more like the Daytona 500 than a civilized shopping trip, with carts bumping into each other and people racing around the aisles, rushing to find advertised bargains. Sometimes, I would quickly achieve my goal and exit the store with my gift. But many times, the item I was looking for was already sold out, or the line to secure it exceeded my patience level and the value of the deal.

By the time I returned home with or without the gift, I was exhausted by the whole experience. On Black Friday, it was common to see customers in shouting matches with each other, sometimes becoming physical, over items they were trying to secure for loved ones — all in the name of Christmas. The stress to find a perfect gift at a great price was substantial.

Some years, I found myself last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve in crowds that rivaled those of Black Friday. With predominately male shoppers out the day before Christmas, we silently acknowledged each other as members of the "procrastination club," with a symbolic nod of the head, as we passed by each other. We put ourselves in this stressful situation, knowing the crowds would be heavy and choices limited.

Many times, we make decisions that invite stress. An example of this from the Bible is when David runs for his life from King Saul. We are not exactly sure what David did, but we know it was enough to make the king mad.

When the Israelites complained to Moses while he was leading them out of Egypt, he and Aaron humbly prayed to God for answers rather than allowing their situation to dictate their attitudes.

Luke chapter 9 teaches that procrastination is not acceptable because there is always another reason or excuse not to do what needs to be done. In fact, on one occasion, Jesus is addressing followers about obedience and uses a parable to explain, "No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God!"

While it is true that we can't avoid stress, we can avoid making decisions that invite stress.
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