Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/20/14

Thanksgiving is both a Christian practice and a holiday. I love Thanksgiving—the turkey, the family gatherings, the parade. It is a great day that happens once a year that requires planning, hospitality and love.
 
Giving thanks, however, is a kind of mindfulness that should happen every day. When we give thanks, we recognize something that is already true about the world—everything we have is a gift from God. Why is it so easy to focus on those areas of our life that seem less than blessed?
 
A.J. Jacobs is one of those performance art/documentarians who tries a new practice for a year and writes about it. He wrote a book about reading the Encyclopedia Britannica in one year and another about living biblically, in a very literal way. While many of his practices take following the Bible literally to an absurd level, he found that the biblical command to live thankfully really affected him.
 
“[In] my obsession with gratefulness, I can't stop,” he writes. “I press the elevator button and am thankful that it arrives quickly. I get onto the elevator and am thankful that the elevator cable didn't snap and plummet me to the basement. I go to the fifth floor and am thankful that I didn't have to stop on the second or third or fourth floor.” The more you practice thankfulness, the more you are mindful of being thankful. Jacobs found it to be a powerful life practice, simply naming his thankfulness in all things. “I've never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”
 
Consider all that goes right and well in your life and try to note and name these gifts.  It is too easy to focus on the critical or negative things happening in our lives. In the words of that familiar hymn, try to “count your blessings, name them one by one.” If you do, you will find that these blessings have a way of multiplying.
 
Happy Thanksgiving, Highland Hills.

Good Ole Poncho

Good Ole Poncho

by Cass DuCharme

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/13/14

Poncho, our church’s Live Nativity donkey, died last week. He was 50 years old! Poncho had been in our nativity for the past 15 Christmases. One year, he even starred in the show and told the story himself about the angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and the Wisemen. Well, he did have a little help from Jeff Browne, of course.

Telling God's Story

Telling God's Story

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/6/14

NANOWRIMO, the term sounds technological. Like the name of a new iPod. It sounds like a word from another language. It is not. Na-No-Wri-Mo is an acronym that stands for National Novel Writing Month. For years, want-to-be-novelists have accepted the challenge of crafting their own stories. Truth be told, every year I have a fleeting impulse to dive in myself.  The competition provides the necessary provocation for aspiring amateurs or hardened professionals to finish their projects or try something new. All work on the quick-written and often quick-witted novels must begin on November 1. A complete draft must be completed by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. That is, 50,000 words in thirty days. For some of you, telling your own story, even in print, is more than you can handle and the idea of a daily word count might be downright terrifying.

Saints and Sinners

Saints and Sinners

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/30/14

On Sunday, we are reflecting on the saints and sinners in our lives. Which is to say, we will be reflecting on the church and the community, who, throughout time, have passed on the faith while dealing with their own virtue and vice. We will name the dear saints who have passed from our midst in the last year, those who have joined the wider community of the church already at home in Christ with God. They remain a part of us and we of them. One community, a great cloud of witnesses to the power of God to create, redeem, and call us to new life in a community of saints.

Julian of Norwich lived in the 14th century and published what is regarded as the oldest surviving book penned by a woman in the English language. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, bears the marks of English mysticism of the time. She wrote about good and evil and the power of the love of God, expressed both in the passion of Christ and the in the nature of God as Trinity. Widely regarded as a saint, she felt that she was a sinner like the rest of us.

“First comes the fall,” she wrote, “then comes the recovery from the fall, both are the mercy of God.”

We would do well to learn the wisdom here. Saintly folk need to remember that they are sinners like the rest. Sinners must know that no matter where you are in life, there can be the grace of recovery again and again.

Consider the Season

Consider the Season

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters, October 2014

Seasons change. We have enjoyed the changing of the seasons here in Middle Georgia. The leaves are falling and so are the temps. The orange of fall with lovely pumpkins matches the orange of the Mercer Bears. Neighbors are lighting fire pits and shopping for holiday treats; it’s time to prepare for a new season.

A Holy Walk

A Holy Walk

by Ruth DuCharme

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/23/14

I love to take walks, especially during the fall season when the air is crisp and the colors are brilliant. Many evenings after supper, Cass and I will put on our tennis shoes and walk around the lakes of our neighborhood. At other times I will walk alone or walk with my trusty companion, Chip, our mailbox-sniffing pup.

Walks are very soothing to me. Yes, sometimes I walk for exercise. At those times, I will walk faster and further in order to get my heart rate up and my muscles moving. At other times, my walks are slower and more contemplative. During those walks, I try to have a heightened sense of attentiveness and seek to hear and see God’s presence around me.

Spiritual Formation Matters

Spiritual Formation Matters

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/16/14

I have spent some time with a few of our recent high school graduates, now college freshmen. Something remarkable happens in that  time between the end of the last year of high school and the end of the first semester of college. All of the finality of graduation passes away. You realize that the end of one phase was really the beginning of a new one. I have been a pastor long enough now to see students move from college to career to kids.

Honing in on Hospitality

Honing in on Hospitality

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/9/14

We are southerners. We understand hospitality here in Macon, where every guest is welcomed with a smile, southern drawl, and a glass of sweet tea. What if hospitality goes beyond our gentile niceties?