The Malone Family Annual 2014…

I started a “tradition” in 2003 of writing an annual letter to send to friends and family to catch them up on the happenings of the Malone family. Not that anyone cared about the happenings of the Malone family, but a letter seemed an easier (and less expensive) method of staying in touch with friends from churches we served, and with family that we rarely ever saw, than purchasing tons of cards, writing a personal note in each one, and getting them in the mail.

So, 2014 will mark the 12th letter in the series, and the web and Facebook have made connecting with friends and family old and new easier than ever before. I’m posting the annual letter on my blog, I’ll link it to Facebook, and there’ll be a link on Twitter. All that kind of makes mailing the letter seem a little archaic, but we’ll mail as many as we ever do (actually, a few more–we add a few more each year), only those we mail will be later (you’ll probably get them after Christmas–it has something to do with four funerals in a week, preparations for three Christmas Eve worship services, and the lack of color ink for the printer). So, read it now…or, wait for the print edition…or, don’t read it. The choice, as always, is yours!

The Malone Family Annual

Christmas 2014

Malone Family 2014 (2)One more year behind. It doesn’t seem quite possible that an entire year has passed since I last wrote. I must confess this has been the fastest year of my life. I’ve blinked and it’s gone. I’ve blinked and the children are bigger (grandchildren, I mean—I suppose “older” might be a better word). I’ve blinked and my hair is a little grayer (at least it turned gray and not loose).

I’m not sure how much news there is to report this year, and I’m so late writing that this is more apt to be a New Year’s update rather than a Christmas update. I’ve just been too busy to sit down and write, and when I’ve not been busy, I’ve simply been too tired. Yes, I know. “You’re a pastor. You only work one day a week!” Yes, but that one day is a killer. Takes a whole week to recover!

Where should I begin? Vanessa and I have completed another year at First UMC, Monroe. It’s been a great year, too. We still enjoy spending as much time as we can on our back porch, especially by the fire pit, and Vanessa is enjoying spending as much time as possible being grandma. She travels every Thursday to Minden to keep Josh’s three—that’s right, three—but I’ll share more about that in a moment. One thing I’ve even considered is that with Facebook, this annual letter is becoming a little obsolete. Want to know what’s happening with the Malone Family? Just log on to Facebook. We post way too much stuff on there.

So, here’s the skinny on the Malone Family for 2014. Adam is at home in West Monroe with Felicia and their two boys, Kade (15) and Kobyn (11). Both the boys are quite musical, and we hope they continue to hone those talents in the future. They are all very active at FUMC, Monroe, and that’s a blessing, too. Also, Adam is now a professional writer. He writes a regular article at www.whodatdish.com. It’s all about the New Orleans Saints, a passion he and I both enjoy, so I’ve had fun reading his musings. He continues working for Noble Drilling Corporation, and is headed for Australia (probably by the time you receive this letter).

skyler (2)Josh and Piper’s big news, of course, is the birth of their third child at the end of September. Skyler Augustus Malone was born on September 29th. Mom and Dad call him Skyler (well, everyone else, too), but Poppy prefers to call him Gus-Gus. We’ll see how long he (or they) let me get away with that. Of course, the twins (Peyton and Ryder) have already taken Skyler under their wing and are teaching him all their mischievous ways. We’ll see where that leads.

Brittney and Kelsey are living at home now. Kelsey graduated from LA Tech University (Go Dawgs—we’re now a three Dawg family) in May, is exploring permanent, long-term (at least, that’s what Dad hopes) employment options, and continues to play the keyboard for our contemporary worship service as well as for J-Force, our children’s choir. Brittney will be moving to Bossier City in January. She’s taken a new position as manager at Hooter’s in Bossier City. She’s commuting from Monroe right now (send money, please), but will have her apartment beginning January 1. We’re happy for her. It’s the job she’s wanted for a long time. We’re glad it finally came to fruition.

That about catches everyone up on the happenings of the Malone Family for 2014. Seriously, just check Facebook. You’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know. We love you all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Until next time, keep looking up…

Thanking Who?

Happy Thanksgiving! That’s simply enough said, and no, we haven’t slipped right past Thanksgiving and gone to Christmas (the store merchandising notwithstanding). I’ve noticed many instances on TV and radio reminding us to be thankful. And, we need reminding. What I’ve also noticed is that we need to be reminded who it is we’re really supposed to thank.

Thanksgiving-ImageI was watching Dancing with the Stars earlier this week (don’t you dare judge me), and there was a segment in the program where the finalists were giving thanks, but only Sadie Robertson gave thanks to God. The entire segment was a “thank you” to America, to the fans and viewers. Now, it’s appropriate for them to thank the viewers and fans. After all, without the viewers and fans, there would be no Dancing with the Stars, but thanking other people doesn’t capture the nature or intent of Thanksgiving.

Soon after watching DWTS, I saw a commercial advertising a holiday special hosted by reporter Robin Roberts entitled “Thank You, America!” According to the promo, this will be a special night shining “a light on the American spirit of gratitude,” and an evening that “recognizes ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their communities.” I’m certain it will be a nice, feel-good program for this Thanksgiving Thursday that will tug at our heart strings, and it’s appropriate to give thanks to others, and celebrate the good things they’ve done. But, again, I’m kinda’ thinking the program won’t capture the nature or intent of Thanksgiving.

I’m a little uncertain about what Thanksgiving is becoming, but may I offer a reminder about what Thanksgiving originally was? For us in the good ole’ U. S. of A., Thanksgiving goes all the way back to 1621, and the pilgrims giving thanks to Almighty God for a great harvest, and for the preservation of their lives. George Washington, in 1789, made a public proclamation saying “it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor?” He recommended and assigned Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 to be a day of Thanksgiving. And, may we never forget President Lincoln’s proclamation of October 1863, when in the midst of Civil War he proclaimed:

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

 In every instance, the call was to remember God—to stop, to think, to give thanks TO God. It’s easy for us to think about family. Most of us will be going to be with family, or family will be coming to be with us, and we’ll be appropriately grateful. It’s also easy for us to think about food because most of our tables will be filled with turkey and dressing and all the trimmings, and pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie and pecan pie, and fresh baked rolls, and we’ll be  appropriately thankful. It’ll be easy for us to think about football, waiting anxiously for the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys to play their respective games, because they, too, have become Thanksgiving traditions, and we’ll be appropriately grateful that we can enjoy a lazy day of family, food and football. These are things we have, and the focus is appropriate. But our greatest focus today should be on God.

Psalm 100 is on my mind early this morning:

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.[a]
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

The Psalms (the Hebrew song book) are filled with songs of thanksgiving. No less than 15 psalms have “thanksgiving” in the title, and a full 24 of the psalms give specific command to “give thanks.” Psalm 100 is one that includes both. Why did the ancient Israelites have so many songs about thanksgiving? The songs were reminders. So often throughout the early books of the Old Testament, God was always reminding the people that when they made it to the promised land, got settled there, got comfortable, were warm and well-fed, not to forget Him. God would say, “Don’t forget the reason you’re where you are. Don’t forget to ‘give thanks’.”

Psalm 100 is one of the songs the people would sing as they were going into the Temple. It served to set the attitude of the people’s heart as they went into worship. It was a reminder that when you come to worship, bring this attitude…have this attitude within you. It certainly gives the indication that gratitude was a matter of choice. Gratitude is a decision of the will, and if a decision of the will, the choice resides squarely with us. Psalm 100 is a reminder that God is good, God is merciful, God is faithful; that when we are in the ease and comfort of life, when it becomes so easy to forget, remember that we have God, and more importantly, God has us. I do believe that was the nature and intent of any of the early Thanksgiving holidays.

I kinda’ sound a little ungrateful, don’t I? I think I may even come across as a little whiny about the continuing secularization of our culture. I’m sorry if I do, but it just seems to me that someone ought to say something, and if someone ought to say something, it might as well be me. So, HAPPY THANKSGIVING, but please remember that our first thanks is to God.

Until next time, keep looking up…