It was 12: 15 a.m. and I found myself trapped in a corridor of people at least 75 metres long and 25m wide.
It was complete gridlock in the middle of a major U.S. shopping mall - in the middle of the night. It took me the better part of 30 minutes to move past three stores and escape out the other side.
I had never seen anything like it. It made navigating Disneyland during the Fourth of July fireworks display seem like waking through the barren plains of Saskatchewan. It was Black Friday - literally.
My shins were black and blue from the undergrowth of the crowd kicking and gnawing in a feverish attempt to get space and air.
American Thanksgiving is a tradition in our house and since I am the only Canadian in it, I appreciate that my wife and kids let me come along each year.
We typically spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends in Portland and this year was no different.
What was different this year was that rather than getting up at 5 a.m. to get in line for electronics with my sons, I was at the mall at 12: 01 a.m. (that's right - in the middle of the night) with my daughter.
We were there with half the city of Portland with the same goal of trying to get some super special discount on something that is probably going to break, be stolen or returned a couple weeks after Christmas. I was just glad to get out with my life.
I encourage you this Christmas to distinguish between what is really valuable from the pyrite that often gets confused for the real gold.
Christmas is a time that means gifts and parties, lights and decorations along with a whole host of calendar stretching obligations to keep us busy. After it is all said and done, after the presents are opened, the tree taken down and the lights are packed up again, what really leaves a lasting impression?
Is it not the interaction with one another and the fact that someone cares about you and you care about them?
The rest will come and go. It can be taken away from us in a flash, but the memories and the relationships cannot.
In Revelation Chapt. 3, John is told to write about the church in Laodecia, a church filled with wealth and I am sure lots of gold and malls as well.
Yet God says to them that they are being fooled about what is really valuable. They are really wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.
Rather than get up early to go find a bargain, God admonish them to come to Him for real wealth.
Eugene Peterson's paraphrase puts it like this, "Here's what I want you to do - buy your gold from me, gold that's been through the refiner's fire. Then you'll be rich.
"Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in heaven. You've gone around half-naked long enough.
And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see."
The great thing about God is that He really has nothing to sell, only salvation and a life of meaning, value and purpose with Him and each other to give away.
God is telling us to come to Him for everything we need and we will be as the amplified Bible states, "truly wealthy."
No lines, no crowds, no little kids kicking your shins - just real wealth.
- Todd Martin is a pastor with Harvest Christian Fellowship.
Faith That Matters