Making Thankfulness a Game - Literally

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A Kentucky man has invented a fun way to help you focus on what's really important this holiday season and get your mind off these tough economic times.

You'll find a lot of laughter and fun at the Stotz household. Fourteen family members, representing several generations, crowd around the table, playing a game that's a family tradition. It's called, The Thanksgiving Game, and the first step is to write down what you're thankful for. 

The Game's Inventor

Retired Christian businessman Louie Stotz invented the game for his family. Now, it's available in stores and online, so others can be encouraged.

"I know it's tough to lose jobs," said Stotz. "I know it's tough to not be able to make your house payment. But there are so many things God has given us, even in the most dire situations. Being thankful is uplifting and joyful."

The game has three different phases. The writing part is known as "Thanksgiving." "Thanksguessing" follows, when the written blessings are read aloud, and the participants try to guess who is thankful for what.

The responses can be serious or humorous. Some of the blessings that were read aloud in the game that CBN News watched included:

"I am thankful for a home where Christ is Lord."

"I am thankful for God's faithfulness and the hope of the future."

"...a loving, supportive and understanding spouse."

"I'm thankful for America."

"My three doctors."

"...that my husband still has hair."

The final phase is "Thankssharing," when it's revealed who wrote which blessing. 

First Game

The Stotz family first played The Thanksgiving Game 31 years ago. The year was 1977, and Louie was waiting for his in-laws to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. The idea came to him to play a game, to pass the time with the guests who were there. The Thanksgiving Game was born.

"I took some paper and some pencils and passed them out, and actually, had no idea what game we were going to play, but that was the beginning of The Thanksgiving Game because you don't start Thanksgiving without your mother-in-law," Stotz chuckled.

"I was 9 or 10 years old, and I do remember him tearing the pieces of paper and saying we're going to play a game," recalled Maria Lester, Stotz's daughter. "Of course, Dad was notorious for coming up with crazy things to do. So we just wondered what it was going to be like. I remember there being excitement in the air."

"We have played the game every Thanksgiving since," said Stotz's wife, Jo-Ellen. 

A Family Tradition Shared

She has proof, too. Jo-Ellen has saved the responses from her family over the years.

She shared several with CBN News, including one that read, "I am thankful that God let Jesus die in my place."

"It's just been so good to do it," Jo-Ellen said. "And you can just think about the years, and think about the people.

"Any time we stop to think about what God has done -- if it was a tiny detail. If you're thankful for that, and God knows it, He gets the glory while you're playing this game. You've said it on your card, and you've shared it with others, but He gets the glory because He knows that was important to you," she said. 

After seeing the positive effect the game had on the family, Stotz's son-in-law, Tim Lester, proposed an idea.

"I guess maybe the Holy Spirit just prompted me a couple of years ago that what has been a tradition in this family for so long -- why shouldn't we share that with other families to get to experience the joy and the transformation that this game -- that we've actually seen it do in this family," said Lester.

Tim found a manufacturer in Chicago who helped him turn the game of paper and homemade cards into a packaged one that anyone can play. A warehouse in Lexington stores copies of The Thanksgiving Game before it's shipped to various locations. 

Family Gives Back

Louie Stotz says they've sold tens of thousands of The Thanksgiving Game. It's carried at Cracker Barrel, certain Kroger stores and Christian bookstores around the country, thanks to a large Christian distributor. It also can be found on amazon.com.

The family says the way the game has taken off is a miracle, and they are spreading the blessing by giving back. A portion of the proceeds of The Thanksgiving Game is going to help people in need. For example, Mission Arlington in Texas is benefiting, along with Mission Lexington Dental Clinic -- a place that provides free dental care.

"It's a huge blessing for us," exclaimed Patsey Jacobs, the director of Mission Lexington. "We didn't start with a big foundation or grant or anything. We've just started on faith that the money will be there; the people resources will be there, and God has provided and continues to provide for us. So their donations are huge for us."

The Stotz family hopes you'll play The Thanksgiving Game.

"I'm just thankful that others will have this chance to do what we've done all these years, and always been blessed by it," said Jo-Ellen Stotz.

And don't forget -- it can be played any time of the year, because being thankful is always in season.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.