November 21, 2008 § 3 Comments
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)
Our family is in Orlando as I type this post. Kevin, our firstborn, is to be married within days. When your children are born you know this moment will come, but it is hard to actually envision it – you are so caught up in being eternally young yourself that you seem to always see your children as little ones. And then that day arrives, and you are older, and your children are either adults or adult-ish – and one day one of them gets married. That day is here. Kevin is getting married. God has led him to a delightful, creative and lovely young woman (Sarah) who loves Christ and adores our son – she is already like a daughter. For this I am Thankful.
When our son gets married I’ll get to sit by my wife of 26 years. It seems that we are always separated at wedding ceremonies – she in the congregation and me on the stage performing the wedding. But not at Kevin’s wedding. There we will be – Katherine and Mike – married and sitting together as a couple while Emily and Erin, our beautiful daughters walk the aisle as bride’s maids and as our son and his wife-to-be exchange vows. We will get to squeeze one another’s hands when beautiful words are uttered, when our son says, ‘I Kevin, take thee, Sarah…’ and when the new Groom kisses his Bride. In the life of a minister’s family sometimes normalcy is the most exciting reality. For this (and those 26 years and three precious children, and daughter-in-law-to-be), I am Thankful.
Thanksgiving has always been special. Katherine can tell you of some early ones when I wanted more food than we could handle in five sittings (as often is the case with memories, that is the sanitized version). Our family tradition, dating back to Tallahassee days, has been to have breakfast at McDonalds, go to the park to feed ducks, and then prepare for the feast. Family and friends will be with us on Thanksgiving Day. Mom, and a brother and his family who live in Seattle will be there. Some local friends may join us. Christmas music will officially become the staple through New Years. In Maryland the cold weather will make it actually ‘feel’ like the season. For all this, I am Thankful.
This will be the first Thanksgiving in my life where Dad has not been with us. I can tell you that it is a strange thing to consider. But it seems the appropriate time to consider life with him. Dad was my point of reference when it came to all those qualities like stability, integrity, honor, faithfulness, etc. And we were blessed with a father who made it more credible to believe that there is a God who could really love. I’m glad Mom will be with us on Thanksgiving Day – she deserves to have a glimpse of people who bear Dad’s image and now we can begin to give back to her what they have always provided for us when they gave themselves. Katherine’s folks are frail but still pressing on. I’ll never forget our first Thanksgiving in Mississippi. We lived in a small apartment with rented furniture. Katherine’s Mom and Dad actually drove all the way from Nashville with a cooked turkey so that we would not have a Thanksgiving without it. Her Mom (whom Katherine affectionately refers to as ‘Hen,’ as in ‘mother hen’ and whose real name is Millie) closes every note and card with ‘Lovingly…’ and that is who they are. They have passed that sweetness on to their daughter who now sprinkles it over our family as well. For our parents and all they have given us, I am Thankful.
Three churches have served as the places God has called us to at any given time through years of ministry. Whenever a pastor goes to a church the Membership tends to consider itself blessed (we call that the ‘honeymoon’ but that is for another post, a lot of therapy and a well-deserved lay counterpoint) – yet in each case we have been the ones who have received the bounty of God’s goodness through those congregations. Each of these three churches has its own personality and all have been used by the Lord through thick and thin to teach, challenge and define us. Wildwood, Old Cutler and Chapelgate have all uniquely contributed to a fulfilling life in faith and community. They have loved and embraced our family as theirs. In each church we have met friends who have become like family. And I am the beneficiary of unspeakably capable and faithful fellow Pastors, Staff and church Leaders. For these churches, fellow-laborers and friends, I am Thankful.
Right about here it would be easy to begin preaching – but I won’t. Instead I’ll conclude by simply saying that I am most Thankful for and Thankful to Jesus.