Sunday, November 20, I enjoyed eating a meal with my church family. It was great to get to talk with so many people. Our Fellowship Hall was buzzing with many conversations as people of all ages were sitting together sharing all about their lives. There was talk about the BSC rankings and if OU has a prayer of making the championship game and debates about whether LSU and Alabama should have a rematch or if someone else should get a shot at knocking off the number one team in the nation. It was just a time of enjoying one another’s company.
My second Thanksgiving meal last week was with my family. It was the first time to have Thanksgiving at my parent’s house since my brother died last year. It was weird to see one of my nephews in my brother’s traditional seat; however, he is so ornery that it was rather appropriate for him to take that chair. My son loved getting to spend several hours with his cousins. My dad and I enjoyed watching a couple of football games while mom, Shirley, and my sister sat and talked together. It was a good day!
As Christmas is rapidly approaching, we are making plans to get together with other family members who we haven’t seen in years. As a pastor I am normally in attendance of a Christmas Eve service so I am not able to go to these family parties. This year looks to be different and I am hopeful that I will be able to see aunts, uncles, and cousins I haven’t seen in years. The holidays are a wonderful time when you’re able to get together, talk, laugh, and remember days gone by.
There are many who are a part of our American family who won’t be home for the holidays. Yesterday at church, one of our members was in attendance for the first time since March. He is on a two-week leave from Afghanistan and had just arrived home on Thanksgiving Day. He agreed to come down to the front of the sanctuary so the church family could pray for him and all our soldiers who are serving around the world. Before we gathered around him and his family to pray, I asked him a few questions about how we could best pray for our soldiers living and serving in harm’s way. He didn’t ask for a speedy end to the war, he didn’t ask for protection or assurance of a safe return home, nor did he ask for any special kind of treatment. His answer was more down to earth than I had expected. His reply was simple: “Over the last several months we have lost fourteen soldiers from the state of Oklahoma. What we could use more than anything is encouragement.”
Our soldiers know that we love them, are praying for them, support them, and are eagerly awaiting their return home to family and friends. In spite of these facts, they still need encouragement from home. They don’t want a pat on the back for doing their duty; they want word that we are lifting them up; they want pictures of the leaves changing colors; they want to know we are all still connect regardless of the miles between us.
There are many ways to get in contact with our soldiers who are serving all around the world. I would challenge you to write them a card, send them a picture of a multicolored tree in your neighborhood, give them an email address to write back and turn them into a twenty-first century pen pal, but most of all, tell them “Thank you” for their service and sacrifice. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Let them be a part of your extended family. Most of our military servants will be away from home this holiday, so let’s send a small part of home to them!