November 24, 2013
Growing up in my family, we would spend each Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at my Grammy's house with all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins on my mom's side. On Christmas Eve, we all crammed in 3 or 4 pews at the local Baptist church for the candlelight service, but on Thanksgiving, we struggled to develop any sort of spiritual traditions. There was the traditional watching of the Lions football game (which we watched on mute during the meal), and then taking a break until the start of the Cowboys game (I didn't even really know there was a big parade until much later) to dig into all the pies.
A couple of times my older cousins wrote out verses about being thankful on cards at each place and we read them before eating, but for whatever reason that never caught on.
So, a few years ago when my Mom was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, Bonnie and I began to put together the liturgy below as a way to pray together as a family and give thanks on Thanksgiving. Here are a few things we learned:
The first year we waited until the food was all ready and on the table to pray and it was a disaster. The kids got antsy and kept grabbing food. The adults kept grabbing the food. Then the food we'd been preparing all day got cold. We couldn't really enter into the prayer because we just wanted to get to the feast.
The next year we took a break about an hour before we ate in a different room where the kids could hang out on the floor and we could pray without feeling rushed. The 10-15 minute service we developed (based on the Book of Common Prayer's noonday service with the additional of a few other prayers specifically for Thanksgiving) can be shortened or lengthened to fit the number of kids and level of chaos of any given year.
Praying through a liturgy like the one below let's everyone participate in a way that doesn't put anyone on the spot. Everyone can read things in unison. Different people can take turns reading prayers or Scriptures. If your family is comfortable praying spontaneously, you can do that. But if you're not, or if you need help getting started, the liturgy can help lead you into it.
For a few years, there was a new baby at each Thanksgiving somewhere in our family. So we added a collect giving thanks for this new life that came to us that year. We've celebrated graduations and new jobs. We've celebrated new in-laws as siblings have gotten married. We've celebrated health situations where there's been healing.
This year we'll celebrate Thanksgiving in a new house that the Lord provided for us. Sometimes we remember those who have passed away, or who are not with us for others reasons. Or we remember real challenges and griefs that we are going through. In the midst of these, we can still believe in God's faithfulness, pray for one another, and wait on the Lord to provide.
Giving thanks for these specific provisions of the Lord and asking for his provision in areas of need helps us remember his goodness year after year. It reminds us to tell the stories of God's activity in our lives. "Wasn't it last year that God..." "Remember last year when we needed...and now look what God has done!"
As we give thanks for what God has done in our lives, we remember God's love for all people—especially the poor and lonely. Pray for them, and then do something to serve them. A lot of families do something to serve during the holidays, but what would it look like to live a year around lifestyle of generosity for others because of God's generosity toward us?
Yes, we celebrate from a heart thanksgiving through abundance and enjoying good things. But we also sacrifice from a heart of thanksgiving—knowing that when we give ourselves, our money, and our things to others, that it is the Lord that provides what we need.
November 18, 2013
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:3b
One sign of a great ministry launch? You leave knowing a lot more about the need in the world, still optimistic that somehow your church can do something about it.
With the launch of Replanted, Resurrection’s new foster care and adoption support ministry, this was absolutely the case.
Replanted (firstname.lastname@example.org) launched Saturday, Nov. 2. Over a hundred attendees had the opportunity to hear from Jenn Ranter, Matt Woodley, two adoptive/foster families, a representative from Safe Families for Children and others about ways to get involved. There were carnival games (free childcare!) for the kids who came and a dessert social for the adults.
This summer I had the opportunity to interview Jenn, who spearheads the ministry, about her ministry goals.
“We really just want to reach out to those families who would like more support in this experience, from start to finish – whether they’re just thinking about adoption or foster care, or whether they’re in the waiting period or already actively a foster or adoptive family,” she said. Replanted offers a monthly support group for foster and adoptive families, prayer partnering, meal sign-ups, and informational sessions. Eventually, Jenn also hopes to start up a mentoring program for adopted and foster kids at Resurrection.
Replanted is in partnership with other churches in the area, and hopes to connect families with organizations like Safe Families for Children. SFFC representative Wendy Payne explained the basic service Safe Families offers: “When families are in crisis, a family in the church takes in the kids for a while before anyone gets hurt. There’s no state involvement or payment. We’re trying to be a voice for kids who can’t speak for themselves.”
One major takeaway from talking with Jenn and from Replanted’s launch night: the church and these kids are made for each other. Why? Because we can start from a place of identification, and because we as the church have a different concept of success. We can identify with the orphaned because we were all once spiritually fatherless –“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph
Mike Swihart , who also spoke at the event, said, “In my mind, adoption has always been a very natural way to expand families. As Christians, we are sons and daughters by adoption.”
Throughout the night we heard sobering statistics like these: there are 163-million orphaned or vulnerable children in the world and 100,000 children waiting for adoption. It can cost 25 to 30-thousand dollars to adopt a child internationally, and there are over 3-million cases of child abuse or neglect in the U.S.
So where do we begin if not from a place of faithful obedience to a call upon our lives, rather than slavery to statistics – where do we begin if not from a place of leaving the results up to God?
And yes, this is something we can do, because he cares! As our Compassion Pastor Matt Woodley stated, this issue is close to God’s heart, to our Lord who is a “father to the fatherless.”
Loving with God’s heart means valuing those the world marginalizes. Within adoption and the foster care system, this includes those with special placement needs. Rebecca (MacDougall?) who works with Bethany Christian Services, said that she gets clients who will say something like, “We feel very called to adoption and we’re looking for a healthy baby girl.” But unfortunately, said Rebecca, many children who need foster care or adoption are not healthy, and that requires a lot of sacrifice.
Given that the family is God’s model for discipleship, adoption and foster care are evangelistic. Jenn told us about a 4-year-old girl she worked with as a therapist. Afraid that she would forget about Jesus once she returned to her biological parents, she asked Jenn to pray with her that God would never forget her. “She said she was grateful for her foster family and that they taught her about Jesus. That was her takeaway,” Jenn said.