Thinking Out Loud

December 13, 2016

The Christmas Gift Exchange Game


You know this game.

Everyone brings a wrapped gift and places it under the Christmas tree. Everyone gets a number. The first person picks a gift from the tree and unwraps it for all to see. The second person has a choice, they can pick a gift as well, or steal the item the first person has. The person who just lost their gift now picks another gift from the tree. The third person can steal something, from the first or second person, who then can steal something or pick a gift from the tree.

And on it goes.

My wife is not a particular fan of this game. The game is a trigger. Of what, I do not comprehend. Myself, I like Christmas parties to contain two elements, food and conversation. When someone says, “Now we’re going to play a game;” I take off to the spare bedroom for a prolonged conversation with the family cat.

But last night, at the staff party we hosted, of our own volition, we played the game.

But with some differences.

First of all, everybody got four numbers. There were eight of us, so 36 gifts in total.

Second, we (my wife and I) bought all the gifts ourselves.

Third, you couldn’t really tell what anything was by the way it was wrapped.

Fourth, it just so happened that every single gift had exactly the same monetary value.

In case you’re wondering how we did this, the gifts were from Dollar Tree. Each item had a retail value of $1.25 CAD, and everybody knew this.

…and yet…

First, there was just as much emotion over the acquisition of and the loss of various objects as there are in the traditional version of the game where more value is at stake. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Second, the game still played to our sense of personal property. One particular item that someone had held onto for most of the game was stolen at the last minute. It takes only minutes for something to be ours. There’s a lesson there, too.

Third, all the items were practical and usable by the average participant. There wasn’t anyone going home with something that couldn’t be used at some point over the next few months. Normally, when you say giftware, you’re including so many things that no one specifically needs.

Fourth, everyone’s take consisted of more than one item. Their loot wasn’t entirely consisting of one single item which they may have chosen, or simply ended up with by the luck of the draw.

Fifth, there was complete equity in terms of the dollar value of the gifts. No one can seriously complain that anyone got more. (And anyone who feels they missed out on something can go to Dollar Tree and simply buy the thing for pocket change.)

I think we had just as much fun as when we’ve played the game with $25 items. Maybe more. No, definitely more.

One thing I learned doing this was that Dollar Tree carries great merchandise. Several people were surprised that we had obtained the items at such a low price.

One thing I regret is that we didn’t do all this buying for a low-income family. Or even a refugee family.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a version of the game that solves some issues associated with it, may I suggest just buying everything yourself at a dollar store.

Sidebar: To my many UK readers, what do you call the equivalent of “the dollar store” there? Or do you have them?

The rest of the rules:

  • If someone steals your gift, you can steal someone else’s gift or choose and open a wrapped one.
  • Continue until everyone has had a turn for a gift. A turn is ended when an unopened gift has been opened.
  • A gift can only be “stolen” once during a turn. If a gift is taken from someone during one round, she cannot take it back during that same round. She can, however, take it back in a later round if she is in a position to select a gift.
  • Once a gift has had 3 “owners”, the 3rd owner of a gift gets to keep it – it is retired and can’t be stolen again.*
  • The gift exchange ends when the last wrapped gift is chosen and opened.

* We forgot that rule last night; that’s the problem with a game you only play once a year.

This game is also played as the White Elephant Gift Exchange, but in that case people bring gifts “…defined by something of dubious or limited value or an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others. Thus, in its basic form the game calls for people to bring ‘gag’ gifts or gifts they received that they have no use for.” [source] The version we would play at a friend’s annual party started out as gag gifts but morphed into higher quality merchandise. Unfortunately, for a couple of years we didn’t get the memo; we just thought a few people were being extravagant or very generous.

April 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Link suggestions are welcomed.  Use the contact page or simply leave a comment on the previous week’s link list.  Not all suggestions are used right away.

  • Pastors think about things the rest of us probably never consider.  If the “invitation” or “altar call” at the end of the service is a spiritual make-it-or-break-it time, you want to do your best, and while pastors want to be spirit-led, there is a science to these things.  Steven Furtick takes us behind the scenes into his own thought processes on this as he prepared for Easter in a two part discussion on this here and here.  Both videos run about 12:00 total. They spared no expense on their welcome package for seekers, either.
  • And wow! Talk about behind the scenes.  Dan Bouchelle invites us to consider a handful of reasons Why There Are So Many Angry Pastors’ Wives. More things you probably never contemplated.
  • The ABC 20/20 show a few weeks back raised awareness of things done in the name of Christianity in some fringe conservative churches right here in North America. How about a baby getting beaten in the middle of a church service, with the pastor urging on the activity? I’d be most willing to dismiss this story were it not for other online confirmation. Actual quotation from this pastor: “My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year.”
  • Colton Burpo, the central figure of the book Heaven is for Real is a little older now than he appears in the book’s cover shot at right.  USAToday caught up with him having lunch at T.G.I. Fridays and talks with dad Todd about the runaway success of the Thomas Nelson paperback.  BTW, Colton wants to be a musician someday.
  • Lots of stuff in this one that Canadians already knew, but for my American readers, Kevin Platt has a succinct summary of Crandall University’s Sam Reimer’s Five Differences Between Canadian Evangelicals and U.S. Evangelicals.
  • Cathleen Falsani notes the forthcoming movie based on Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and suggests some other books that should be, or are being considered as feature films.
  • Just as The Shack brought critiques like Finding God in the Shack (both versions) so Rob Bell’s Love Wins begat Christ Alone by Mike Wittmer.  At least the introduction isn’t invective: “I respect Rob Bell. He wrote Love Wins to start a dialogue about the most important issues of our faith, and this book is my attempt as an evangelical to join that conversation.” Read more about the first of many responses to Bell’s book.
  • And if you can’t get enough of the R.B. debate, here’s a one-hour radio show from England that gets to the heart of the issues.
  • Listen to the Neue Magazine podcast featuring an interview with worship leader Kari Jobe.
  • Speaking of worship music, Daniel Jepsen posts all eleven verses to O, Sacred Head Now Wounded.   (I think it’s eleven, I lost count!)
  • Lets go three-for-three on worship:  Several bloggers have posted this powerful modern worship song, The Man Jesus Christ Laid Death in His Grave by John Mark McMillan; this posting at Vitamin Z has the lyrics, too.
  • In a rather tedious Q & A in the wake of a television interview released at Easter, Franklin Graham discusses politics, and the Obama Presidency in particular.
  • Tim Challies has been digesting a John Temple book, Family Money Matters and offers eight ways we can resist temptations to consumer spending.
  • Congrats to Jon Acuff on three years and 1,000 posts of the sometimes humorous, always thoughtful blog Stuff Christians Like.  Here’s the top ten posts.
  • Can you really preach powerfully and expect people to take you seriously when your standing — in your best suit — in a wading pool?  This guy thought so.

January 10, 2010

The Trouble With Paris

Last night we binge-watched a four-part DVD curriculum series that was released in Australia in 2007 and picked up by Thomas Nelson in 2008.

The Trouble With Paris features Mark Sayers, described on the packaging as “Australia’s leading young adult specialist” and deals with the media saturation that presents us with a “hyper-reality” that over time leaves us expecting that to be part of our normal experience, when in fact we live life in normal, everyday reality.    Each of the first three parts is really a lead-in to the fourth, which is a big-picture overview of how God’s reality is what we truly need to be seeing and experiencing.

The segments run about 15 minutes each, though I should qualify that by saying that the disc has a number of built-in pauses to consider a small group discussion question.     While the packaging says “four weeks,” this would be an excellent choice for a retreat weekend for young adults or older teens, especially if there was a mix of believers and non-believers.

What’s most impressive however is the audio and video quality.    The curriculum is produced by Room3, a leading-edge video production company in Melbourne whose other work includes promotional videos and commercials with an emphasis on work with non-profits and social justice and community development groups.

At $39.99 US (for a perceived one hour of content)  Thomas Nelson is never going to sell these to individual consumers the way it did the Liquid series or the way Zondervan marketed NOOMA,  but it’s a diamond in the rough your youth pastor or young adults pastor should be aware of.  To watch it on the smallscreen click here but it’s better watched on a giant screen.



Some additional resources by Mark Sayers:

Your Faithclock is Ticking: Why Young Adults leave Church

Why Young Adults Leave Church: Reason 1 Choice Anxiety

Why Young Adults Leave Church: Reason 2 Post-Christian Identity

Why Young Adults Leave the Church: Reason 3 The Pornification of Christian Resources

Why Young Adults Leave Church: Reason 4 Consumerist Spirituality

February 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Flashback in February

Filed under: environment, Humor, issues — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:43 pm

This post is breaking three rules.   First of all, I have no reason to believe that the originators of this comic, The Joy of Tech, are Christians*, though I think in this case they got it right on.   Secondly, this is totally off-season and relates to Thanksgiving (or even Christmas to a lesser degree) but I figured this was as good a time as any… truth is truth, right?   Thirdly, I’m not sure about the ‘reprint’ policy on this one; I looked around the site and couldn’t find it; so this may be here for a short time only.


It’s strange how holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas have become so dysfunctional in some families.   In this case, giving thanks before the meal can’t be done with a straight face, because all the things for which we in the west are “thankful,” are often things we have gained through excessive consumption.    If you’re into tech generally or gadgets in particular, you can scroll through a vast library of Joy of Tech comics at Geek Culture.

*If you joined us through a WordPress, Google or Technorati tag; this is a Christian blog; but you’re here now, so feel free to look around.

December 15, 2008

Editorial: Death at Wal-Mart

Filed under: Christianity, ethics, Faith — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:16 pm

Jamie Arpin-Ricci blogs at A Living Alternative, and has written a piece on the death of the Wal-Mart worker on the Friday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday; in which he finds us all somewhat complicit in so many similar things going on in our world.

Read the article here.

November 28, 2008

Dealing with the Excesses of Christmas

We don’t embed YouTube and Vimeo vids here as a concession to those still surfing the net with dialup; but for the second time ever in Thinking Out Loud history; I am linking you to a YouTube I think you should watch, that’s already appearing on various other blogs.  In fact, try to watch it in full screen mode.

But wait; before we go there, here’s a little perspective from The Thinklings blog, based on a story you can link to from the New York Daily News.

Now then, if you survived that one, and would like to see Christmas expressed differently in the part of the world you can control; here’s the YouTube link.

In America the western world, seems like nothing succeeds like excess; but we each have the power to, in ways big and small, be the change we want to see.

November 10, 2008

Hope In Troubled Times

Environment, wealth-distribution, security, consumerism, global concerns….

In the newsletter which preceded this blog, I wrote a sort of mini-review of a book co-authored by a guy who lives in our local area, Mark Vander Veenen.   Hope in Troubled Times other co-authors are Bob Goudzwaard and David Van Heemst.   This  is not light reading; rather, it’s more reminiscent of my university texts.   I am still picking it up from time to time and pressing on into new sections of it.

hope-in-troubled-timesThe book deals with both the mechanics and underlying philosophy of confronting social, economic and political change.   Reading it in smaller increments, as I am, certainly provokes thought on a number of issues including: national identity, personal security, prosperity and consumerism, resource and wealth distribution, increasing terrorism, modernization, global economies, environmental concerns, etc.

This volume’s beginning can be traced back to Bob Goudzwaard’s book Idols of our Time which Mark translated from Dutch to English where it became a text for many years in political science courses taught by David Van Heemst.    What wonderful company:  the other two authors hold doctoral degrees and the book’s foreword is by Desmond Tutu, no less!

This is a book written by Christians, released in 2007 through a Christian publisher, Baker Books, but don’t expect to find scripture on every page, or any page for that matter.   But you can’t miss the hope for redeeming the world, even in our time.   A great gift for the academic or serious reader concerned about the ‘macro’ issues of our world.

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