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 | By Alison Blanchet

Apps, Ads and Catalogs Lead to Proactive Searches for Everlasting Truth

A few years ago Amazon (the website — maybe you’ve heard of it?) mailed a toy catalog to our house in November. My kids were fascinated. I hadn’t realized that streaming services with no commercials, limited internet access and the use of curbside pickup meant that my kids had far less access to toy advertisements than I had at their age. Don’t get me wrong, they still consume tons of screen time, but theirs is ad-free.

While I initially found the idea of a website making a catalog ridiculous, I quickly realized that I had underestimated Amazon. Before this book full of things arrived, my kids had reasonable lists for Christmas: video games, LEGO and nerf guns. As they thumbed through the catalog their eyes widened, and they discovered entire collections of “stuff” they didn’t know existed. Dropping their lists, they told me they’d just circle what they wanted from the catalog.

They circled everything.

We can lament that kids seem materialistic this time of year, yet even as I write this, I’m clicking between dresses on clearance and promotions for the newest iPhones. And, I don’t even need an Amazon catalog. I have the app that suggests more things I want based on all the things I look up that I think I want. I am just as distracted by “stuff” as my kids are.

It’s ironic that this time of year, when we are trying to reflect on what we are thankful for, we are also overwhelmed with black Friday, Cyber Monday and small business Saturday. Black Friday now begins weeks before Thanksgiving and seems to last until Christmas Eve. How can we cultivate gratitude in our hearts and the hearts of our children in a season when we’re bombarded by advertising and apps designed to leave us feeling discontent?

While we may experience some success with blocking websites or silencing alerts, we can also be proactive and label the experience. For example, we may see an ad and think, “I need a new iPhone.” We might not be able to stop this thought when we see all the shiny products, but when these thoughts pop into our mind, we can recognize them and then clarify, “I want a new iPhone because Apple created commercials designed to make me think I need a new iPhone.” Labeling advertising for what it is can take some of the power out of the experience and help us rein in our thoughts.

This can be harder with children, but it’s an opportunity to lead by our example. How often do our kids overhear things like, “I need a new dress” or “we need a new car.” Instead of denying the reality that we all find ourselves wanting things, especially this time of year, we can say, “I want a new dress, but I also have three hanging in my closet that I haven’t worn recently” or “that new car looks spacious, but we are blessed to have one that still runs well.”

Finally, holy Scripture offers us everlasting truth to counteract the noise of this season. Two of my favorites include first Thessalonians: “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (5:18) and Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (4:6).

During a season that tries to distract us with so many wants, praying with these can bring us clarity — the kind that reminds us that God gives us all we need.

Alison Blanchet lives in Panama City with her husband and three children. She works as a therapist for children and teens. Email her at