Posts tagged ‘chris thomas’

Hosting Guest During The Holidays, Then and Now

By Chris Thomas

 

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23

 

The season of Thanksgiving to Christmas has always been a special time for us, full of family and traditions. My mother in law always had a Birthday Party for Jesus, baked mountains of cookies and put together goodie sacks for each of her twenty two grandchildren. My mom always made oyster stew for Christmas Eve, decorated every room in the house, and hosted parties each week in December for various friends, family and business associates.

 

When our sons were young, we lived six hours away from Texarkana. Choosing to be part of the gatherings and traditions meant taking vacation days, spending gas money and “camping out” at Grandma’s or at “Thomasville”. For our folks, it meant extra food preparation, cleaning spare bedrooms and bathrooms before and after our visit, and the noise and energy of young children in the house. Though each of these might be seen as a burden, when offered with love they became a gift. Hospitality was joyfully given and gratefully received.

 

In his book Virtues for Ordinary Christians, James Keenan points out that hospitality is the virtue that God practices. He observes our needs and our vulnerabilities and provides for them. Even though the world was inhospitable to Jesus, he welcomed the world. In Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary and Joseph extended hospitality to the poor shepherds and the rich magi. Jesus instructed his disciples in this virtue through his parables and through his actions by welcoming the children, feeding the multitudes and accepting all invitations that were extended. His final action in the book of John was to prepare breakfast for his disciples. Truly Jesus fulfilled his role as Emmanuel by being fully present both as host and as guest.

 

This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be our first as grandparents. It is a privilege and a joy to welcome our son and his family to Texarkana when they now travel six hours to be here. There will also be a deep awareness of their need to share time with our daughter in law’s family. Sometimes the gift one is called to give is graciously accepting that the visiting family may need to come and go or

just desire quiet time. We have been fortunate that our daughter in law makes sure we know when they are available for meals or gatherings. When they return home, she always sends notes with thanks and photographs which lighten a gloomy January day.

 

Even in their poverty, the Holy Family extended hospitality to the shepherds who then returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God. In the book of Luke, we are told “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. During this season of giving thanks, take a few moments of reflection to praise the God who is with us in our loved ones and our guests.

May 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Encouraging Your Children In Faith

by Chris Thomas

 

“…that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.”  Romans 1:12

 

    When I was invited to write a column of spiritual encouragement for parents and families, I spent time remembering how I have received encouragement.  I remember David, my husband, standing by my side, holding my hand, his eyes twinkling above the surgical mask as each of our three children were born by c-section.  I remember my mom giving Andrew, our oldest, and Catherine, our youngest, their first baths in the bathroom sink and showing me how to hold this wet, slippery baby and still test the warmth of the water with an elbow.  I remember a time when David couldn’t get home, so a dear friend, Cathy, took me to the hospital and held my hand through the testing and diagnosis of appendicitis.  She kept close by and reassured me, sometimes with words, always with her presence.

    When have you been encouraged by a loved one?   Did they offer instruction, words of encouragement or just their presence?  Was it a time of crisis or just an ordinary day?

    The word encouragement is derived from three roots:  the prefix, en-, which means to “cause to be in”, the Latin word “cor” for heart and the suffix -age, which in English means “the outcome of”.  To encourage could be said to be the result of holding in the heart.  Definitions include to stimulate spiritually, to revitalize and galvanize, to fortify and to console.    

    In the sixteenth century, the mystic and holy woman, St. Teresa of Avila once wrote, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; yours are the only hands with which He can do His work. Yours are the only feet with which He can go about the world; yours are the only eyes through which His compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world.”

   I believe Christ encourages us through His presence found in loved ones and even in strangers.  Often, he uses us to console and fortify others with our words, our presence and even our questions.  Sharing concerns, questions and prayer requests gives others the opportunity of realizing they are not alone on this journey and more than likely that others have the same needs and desires.

    Just for today, notice the others whom God has placed in your life:  spouse, children, co-workers, strangers.  What is the result of being held in their hearts?  How have you held them in your heart?  How has Christ looked through your eyes or worked through their hands?

    Texarkana Parent Magazine has the goal of promoting a balanced and healthy life for our community’s families; physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  One way to encourage others and find encouragement for life’s big and little obstacles is to share with our online community.  You are invited to join the discussion at my blog, www.be-at-myside.blogspot.com  to share, to ask, or to encourage.

May 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

Faith Can Be Caught, Not Taught

By Chris Thomas

 

Pray, then, in this way:  Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name… Matthew 6:9 NAB

 

When our sons were small, evenings would be full of bubbles and baths, pajamas and stuffed animals. The lights would be lowered and the four of us would share prayer. Memorized ones like the Lord’s prayer and spontaneous ones beginning with “thank you, Jesus” followed by gratitude for the day’s happenings. We would end with a blessing by tracing a cross on each others forehead. I treasure the memory of our middle son’s two year old face – so solemn and so cherubic – as he touched his chubby thumb to my forehead and said “God bless you, Mommy”.

As parents, we made a special effort to set aside time for family prayer during Lent. These forty days after Ash Wednesday mark a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. Christians have a long history of observing Lent. As early as the second century, St. Irenaus wrote about the early churches readying for Easter. Forty days mirror the time of fasting that Moses endured before receiving the Ten Commandments; Elijah walked for forty days to Mount Horeb; and perhaps most importantly, Jesus spent forty days in the desert in preparation and reflection before he began his public ministry.

The word Lent comes from the Dutch word “lente” which originally meant the “lengthening of daylight” and eventually became the general term for springtime. In 2012, it is observed by most Western Christian churches from Ash Wednesday, February 22 to Easter Sunday, April 7.

Traditionally, Christians have spent this time in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  I have always been of the belief that faith is more “caught” than “taught”.  Instead of just telling our kids about these practices, we did them together. 

Prayer is our conversation with God. As we take time to speak and to listen, we grow closer in our relationship with him. During the rest of Lent, your family might commit to attending your church on Sundays, praying together at bedtime or saying a blessing before meals.

Fasting can take many forms. It is an ancient practice that reminds us of our hunger for God. In the past we have given up chocolate, sodas or eating out. One year, we decided as a family to give up television. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We had more time for reading, family games and getting to bed earlier.

Almsgiving is giving to the needy in love and is our response to all God has given us. Your family might give up a night out to give that money to your favorite charity or collect change to have the children put in the offering at church.

Finding time for prayer and reflection, fasting from food or activity, and giving from our material goods are not necessarily easy but they are worth the effort. The celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter will be experienced more deeply when our hearts have spent Lent in reflection and preparation. 

May 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Be At My Side by Chris Thomas

by Chris Thomas

…and Mizpah,

for he said “May the Lord

keep watch between you

and me when we are

absent one from

the other.” Gen 31:49 NASB

One of the first gifts from my husband was a Mizpah coin inscribed with the above verse. We each wore half of the coin for years until they were literally worn through. It gave me comfort during college or vacations to know that David and I were praying for each other and reminded of each other by this simple token.

As our love solidified into marriage and we took on the role of parents, separations remain a part of life. They might be as short as a visit with a friend or as long as a week at Grandma’s during the summer. My goal as a mom is not to be such a snug cocoon that our children are hindered from growth but rather to be the foundation from which they stretch their wings and fly.

How does one provide stability and refuge as well as freedom and the confidence to explore?

I asked our children to share memories of going to a new school or camp for the first time. Our fifteen year old daughter said she was comforted when we told her that no matter where or when, if she wanted us badly enough, one of us would come. She confessed to testing us a few times when she was so homesick in kindergarten that she couldn’t stop crying. I remember sitting with her on my lap as I savored her warmth knowing that the next morning I would open my arms and encourage her to

run into the classroom with laughter even as she seemed to forget my presence. Today we remind her that we are still only a phone call away if she needs us, yet we all celebrate as she explores her world.

Our middle son values the strength of a family structure with parents serving as role models. The rhythm of a day’s comings and goings full of familiar activities helped him to feel grounded but not dependent. Mark’s dream career is in the world of opera. Though we have little personal expertise in this field, we delight in encouraging him to pursue his gifts even though to do so he needs to live a thousand miles away from home.

Our eldest son appreciates the fact that we always strive to make our goodbyes and hellos heartfelt. He recognizes the need to take time to be present and not just “there” for these moments.

Mizpah, a Hebrew word for watchtower, was the place east of the Jordan River where Laban bid farewell to his daughters and son in law in the book of Genesis. They shared a meal, accepted gifts and built a memorial at the place of their parting for they knew they might never see one another again. They took time to say goodbye.

Summer is full of opportunities for exploration and growth through experiences around the corner and even around the world. How do you provide your children a grounded environment?

How do you encourage them to fly?

April 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment