Thanksgiving Day entails expressing our thanks for the blessings both God and our families offer to us. Toward that aim, I offer this message to our Metropolis families, who often desire more resources to offer to their loved ones. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta inaugurated the Metropolis Family Life Ministry, headed by Paula Marchman Lekas. Paula and her co-workers offer marriage enrichment, family workshops, retreats, and print and online resources to support our precious families. In thanksgiving and support for this essential ministry, I would like to offer insights they have shared to help us live healthy and spiritual family lives.
First, we have the opportunity to spend more time together as a family. Turning off our televisions, computers, and electronic games can enable us to share one-on-one time to lessen the distance between parents, children, friends, and parishioners. Playing with our children on a regular basis, beginning when they are young, and encouraging creative activities, taking walks in the park or biking together can lead us to closer family sharing. Eating family meals together will be remembered throughout our lives, and offering the opportunity for our family to share its daily activities, visions of life, and dreams when they grow up, will encourage communication that will never be forgotten. I fondly recall how every Sunday after church services, we ate lunch together as a family – no exceptions! Both my parents would share stories of their childhoods, my grandparents and family members who had died. I cherish their stories that helped me learn who I am and God’s potential for me. Toward that aim, I offer a Family Life Ministry blog called “Sunday Lunch” to support our family discussions and interactions.
Second, we have the opportunity to not worry so much in general and to worry less about “the little things” – by asking for God’s help daily to overcome our challenges and struggles and seeking His will in addressing them. Learning to relax and accept from our family its unique and special gifts is both inspiring and joyful. While we certainly will make mistakes as parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, we can learn from our efforts. Through our life’s experiences, we enable our family and friends to fulfill their potential. God created each of us in His image and likeness, so by turning to God’s teachings in Holy Scripture, by sharing the triumphs of the lives of the saints, and asking for help from our Clergy, family and close friends, we can trust that our Lord will help us bear much fruit in His behalf.
Third, we have the opportunity to be more consistent. In other words, parents are responsible for creating the “home rules” and enforcing them consistently. What a blessing our senior family members offer us with their wisdom and experience. Often our brothers and sisters in our parishes are willing to assist if we seek their help and they reflect the fullness of God’s Holy Body that transcends beyond our household family. As parents and guardians, we must decide the areas of discipline, assignment of household chores and expectations, clear communication (in advance) between parents, and making sure our “no” means “no.” Otherwise, we experience more problems and our children learn lessons we never intended and which will hinder healthy relationships.
In closing, these efforts all relate to the attitudes of us as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, Godparents, and friends in managing our critical relationships. How we choose to share God’s love and teachings to live and overcome life’s obstacles is up to us. My special thanksgiving this year is realizing that without God, my sense of purpose and daily pursuits would be haphazard and inconsistent at best and always lacking in the potential fullness God offers as I serve my family, you, His faithful, and those we are blessed to encounter, including those we meet unexpectedly. How we choose to respond or not to respond definitely affects our relationship with our children who learn how they will behave by the examples we show them.
This Thanksgiving, most of us will be surrounded by our families. If you know others will not, perhaps you can include them with a special moment in the days ahead. In addition to thanking and feasting, let us also consider our future priorities with our spouses and children. Let us remember to interact with love and respect, to listen and not just lecture, to apologize when needed, to not lose our temper and yell, nor argue with our spouse in front of our children.
Ultimately, we are challenged to raise our children and live with our family members and neighbors so that they can express themselves in a healthy manner and share their feelings, their hopes, and their dreams. We cannot afford to give up when times become tough. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios likes to share that we should never forget to use our best “weapon” – “unconditional love” as modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Have you hugged and kissed your spouse today, your children, and those whom you love? Do they know you feel they matter and make a difference in your life? During a crisis or sudden need, would they feel comfortable reaching out to you? Do they see you as a loving and supportive brother or sister in Christ, ready to give a “helping hand” or offer some wisdom from your life experiences?
This week, we have the opportunity to thank God, our family, and our friends for being so important to us and the blessings they provide. I’m thankful for the guidance and support of Bishop Alexios and you, my co-workers. I pray for your health and welfare. You are important to me and essential to God’s Holy Vineyard. I thank Paula Marchman Lekas, for her enthusiastic support and endless love of our Metropolis families and those working with her. I pray you take advantage of our Family Life Ministry resources and pass these thoughts on to your family and friends for the thanksgiving and glory of our Incarnate Lord, whose Nativity enabled the salvation of each of us, now, and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.