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How to Pray Together on Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017

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:

1. Don't let the food get cold

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.

2. Involve everyone

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.

3. Give thanks for specific provisions from the past year

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!"

4. Remember those who don't have, and do something to serve them

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.

Looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition? Join us for our Thanksgiving Eucharist Service at 10am in the All Saints Prayer Chapel!

Download the liturgy for Thanksgiving Noonday Prayer

How to Survive Your First 15 Years at Rez

October 28, 2013

We must thank Ashley Moore for her hilarious and thoughtful blog post about surviving one’s first Sunday at Rez. Ashley’s invaluable conveyance of the quirky beauty of Rez should help put any discomforted visitor at ease. Her words inspired me to reflect on the past fifteen years that my family has been here and how much Rez has changed and yet remains the same

1. Praise the Lord, we all cry. And we’ve been crying for years. The Lord is faithful to be there in His presence every Sunday. He meets us where we’re at, so we cry. Some Sundays we are soaring, lifting out of our seats with joy and abandon. Others we are weak and nearly lifeless, desperately in need of Holy Spirit rehab. I went through a season where I couldn’t lift my hands, but only whisper, “Lord, help me,” throughout the entire service. He did.

2. Praise the Lord, it doesn’t matter where we meet, He is with us. We’ve met in gyms, back lawns, concrete block cells (i.e. the Ministry Center), and now a refabbed factory and the places have all been hallowed by Him. As long as we are earnestly seeking Him, He’s there.

3. Praise the Lord the church is loaded with children. Why? It isn’t because the Bishop has six kids. Rez is a life giving, holy place and an abundance of children is a manifestation of that reality. The launch of Replanted as a ministry to support adoption and foster care is a new way to go deeper in this longtime Rez value.

4. Praise the Lord, Rez is a community that longs and loves to release people in their gifts. Charlie and I once hated spiritual gifts inventories and refused to take them. It has taken a long time for us to see value in these tedious questionnaires, but now we do. They are not flawless, everyone no matter what their gift set should pick up trash at the church when they see it, but honing in on our best we have to offer the church builds up the body of Christ. If you haven’t done anything to serve the church yet, do something unseen. Serve on the altar guild, wash and iron linens and communion vessels and get in touch with the Lord’s kitchen holiness.

5. Praise the Lord that He has called us to fight for unity. We have leaders who humbly set an example in this endeavor. We have seen many people come and go. May he continue to grow us in this gift as the cultural clouds darken and gather over our heads. These clouds allow His light to shine brighter, but we must grow in humility no matter how much blessing He pours out on us.

6. Praise the Lord for our vision to serve the Lord, the Lost and the Least. When this was first announced during the Reach campaign, my daughter went home and wrote it on her bedroom mirror…in ink. The vision to build our church on worship, prayer and fasting, to serve Him and those far from Him is our calling for the long haul. As we enter into this new season of 24/7 prayer may we grow even deeper in Him and our heart to fulfill this vision. As Dale Hummel once exhorted us on Vestry, “We must be willing to bleed the vision.” If the Lord calls us to do this; worship, prayer and fasting will make us ready.

7. Praise the Lord that Rez is home. Our family travels, we love to go places, but after about a week or two we are ready to go home. After fifteen years, we don’t just return home to our house in Wheaton, we come back to our Rez family home. It may be 935 West Union, or our pastorate, but it is the gathering of God’s people, our home.

For those of you new to Rez, we are praying for you. May the Lord gift you with all and more than he given us and may you have an undivided heart of love for his bride. And Ashley, may the Lord give you many more joy-filled years at Rez!