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Our Family Helping Others

September 29, 2014

School kit supplies

School kit supplies

We believe that it is important for our son and daughter to know how important it is to give others. So we planned to make school kits that the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance gives away to children who are not as fortunate as we are. My wife bought the school supplies during the regular school shopping spree for our own; collecting those sale items that she knows will be needed later or next year. She also labored in making cloth bags to the right specifications, complete with handles and we spoke about how this would be a great family activity. I mean it is the beginning of school, they got some new school supplies and now other children and young people would be equipped too.

The day was set, the assembly line was readied and our son and daughter were called. Well, we called them, but they didn’t hear us. One was on the computer playing Minecraft with headphones on, while the other was in her room in another part of the house watching her favorite “ihasCupquake” YouTube video, with headphones on. No problem, a more direct request with a louder voice which was the point when some grumbling and gnashing of teeth began, first with our own and then with us.

Speaking through our smile, teeth showing, while sharing how this is helping those not as fortunate, the good graces with us didn’t last long. There was a whine here and a “Why do we have to do this?” there and all through both of them connected to some device with a screen. Our Son had reluctantly gotten off the computer – he may have been playing Minecraft with this friends, skyping them as they play on the same server, now he had replaced the desktop with his Kindle. Plug out – Plug In, you guessed it with his headphones on and our daughter had just walked in with Kindle in hand wearing her headphones. Then the bumping into each other began and the attempt to be the first one to complete a bag and . . .

Needless to say, our family service project didn’t go as planned.

Sometimes our best attempts are foiled, but at least we did it. We took the step to help others and now children and young people will have school supplies. My hope is that when our children grow up that they will at the least have a vague memory that we helped others and that’s what we are supposed to do.

Ready to Send

Ready to Send


Taller than Grandma – Milestones

November 30, 2012

On our recent trip to visit with family, we found that our 13 year old son is now talker than grandma.  Now, grandma may be shorter than some Grandmothers but we were wondering when the overtaking would take place.  Children grow up and get talker and smarter and wiser.  I don’t know if our son believes that this is a milestone.  But this could be an important milestone.  It confirms for him that “yes” he is getting taller.  Of course many kids grow and become talker than their family members, but for our son, being a little smaller than most, this accomplishment is something that is special.

Our son’s had milestones before, but we as parents have been the ones who thought it was special.  The first bite of real food.  The first time he slept through the night. Then potty training, the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade.  All of these milestones were probably unnoticed by our son, but we as the parents have had some great celebrations of these milestones and a little grieving too.  As our son grows older my hunch is that milestones will become more important for our son and we hope that we will be able to celebrate these adequately and to help him know how proud and special these milestones are for him.

It is important for family to celebrate the milestones of children and young people and it is important for the church to celebrate milestones too.  Too often the church misses celebrating the milestones and misses the love and care that it could show to young people.

I believe that it is important for families and the church to celebrate milestones for young people.  Doing so not only helps young people know that they are cared for and loved, but helps them know that it’s important to stretch and reach for more milestones.

How could families and the church celebrate the milestones of young person?  One book that could help is ‘Blessings and Rituals For the Journey of Life,” by Susan Langhauser.  This book provides milestone celebrations and rituals for congregations, but the last chapter helps anyone shape a “blessing” of milestones themselves.  Another resource that gives guidance for the church is “The Child in our Hands,” Milestones notebook.  This a part of a large set of resources for the church on how to encourage and enrich faith in children and young people.  Here’s the link for this resource:

So how did we celebrate our son’s growth, with praise and grace and ice cream.  We also talked to him about how it’s important to move through other milestones and that we would be celebrating with him.  So did our church celebrate our son’s growth this time, no; but in the future, I expect that they will and help him know how a family of faith can care and extend love and grace.

First Day of School

September 1, 2012

The First Day of School 2012

The First Day of School

For about 8 years now, we have a tradition at our home that on the first day of school I make French toast for breakfast.  It’s a special breakfast treat for the children, usually one of my dinners, but for the first day of school I make French toast and I put an “X” in the middle of the piece of Toast.  This is also special for our family for it means “I love you” in our house.

I love you – French Toast

SPECIAL NOTE: If you are reading this, please don’t tell our children this next part.

I started this tradition in our home because I hated the first day of school growing up.  I not only hated it, I dreaded it.  I got sick to my stomach.  I haven’t told our children this, I didn’t want my baggage to fill them with anxiety or cause them to dread the first day of school like I did.

I’m not sure why I dreaded the first day of school so much, it may have been I was such a home body.  I remember that all the first days always turned out just fine.  It may have been because the newness of everything.  Thank goodness I grew out of this kind of fear and anxiety.  Someone I told this to the other day thought that it was a little ironic that the first day of school was such trouble for me.  He mentioned that I had a lot of schooling; college, graduate school for a Master’s of Divinity degree and more schooling to receive my Doctor of Ministry degree, but somewhere while in college the dreading of the first day disappeared.

I’ve had plenty of new experiences and “first days” since I was a young and now I view them as a beginning of a new adventure; an exciting change that is embraced with joy and hope.  But I still remember the night before the first day of school lying in bed hoping that they would cancel school forever.  I think that there were probably tears and crying to my mother.   And I believe that my mother told me something about new experiences and meeting new people – but still I would have rather stayed home.

My wife’s sensitive to the first days and so after she picked up the kids from school; they went out for ice cream; a special treat and celebration that they made it through the first day.

There is something important in Christian faith about first days.  All of the gospels record that Jesus resurrection took place on the first day of the week.  First days can be considered as resurrection days.  This is thought of as Sunday’s on our calendar and so each Sunday, even when it is not Easter Sunday is a resurrection day.  A day of new beginnings and a day of hope, when we give thanks to God who gives us life eternal; who conquers death and who provides us grace.  Perhaps knowing this theology has relieved my anxiety over first days.  Because with Christ first days can be filled with new beginnings and provide hope.

And I called and talked to our kids after the first day, they were headed to get ice cream to celebrate and heard that it was all good.

What a relief!

Childhood Life

August 25, 2012

Childhood life

For me home is love and acceptance.  Home is a place to retreat from the world and recover from the situations that challenge us and cause us to struggle.  My first home was 3813 Brightview Drive. 

This is where I called home for the first 19 years of my life.  It was a 3 bedroom track home in a suburb of Los Angeles.  Growing up in this house it seemed to have plenty of room for my parents and my older brother.  I had my own room, with a window that cranked outward, that looked out onto our back patio.  The front yard had an orange tree, left over from the grove that was turned into a series of track homes.  The back yard had a lemon tree.  The back yard, bordered by fences, formed a U shape that provided room for play.   Tiger and A.J. my dogs, made their home in this backyard (they also ran away from this backyard.)

My family in our backyard

I remember this home well – my mother and father’s 25th wedding anniversary party, the bridge club where couples would come and play bridge into the night, playing basketball in the driveway in front, throwing the tennis ball at the wooden garage door that swung out with thick long springs.  I remember learning to ride a bicycle in the front yard.

But this home was sold by my mother about 5 years after my parents got divorced.  Part of the divorce settlement was that after I turned 18, that either the house was to be sold, or my father was to get the ½ of the appraised amount, at the time of the divorce.  I think that my parents’ divorce and the selling of this home, began to shift my feeling of home.  My parents’ divorce caused me to grow up, through the adolescent years in a broken home.

With the money my mother made from the sale of my first home, my mother bought a brand new home about 20 miles away.  But by this time, my family had switched.  My second family, a church, accepted me, loved me and cared for me and through them, specifically a Sr. High fellowship group, my home became the church.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God had worked through this home to help me sense God’s love in a deep way.  Through them family and home was redefined.  Since then I’ve felt at home in churches, made my home in churches.

But years later, home was redefined again.  It took place when I married and when we bought our first home then home again shifted.  Home was where Lynn and I would start our own family – and it was our home, even though we paid the bank a mortgage it was our home with our things and home became that place to retreat to relax and to be a family again.

Then Home shifted again, it shifted when God called me to Texas.  Now with two children, we have been struggling to sell a home after the economic crisis and we have made our home in an apartment, with only 1/3 of our things.  But this is not really home to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel fortunate to have a roof over my head for me and my family, many have felt the economic crisis in a deeper way, but with much less room, and without 2/3 of our things, our home seems as thought it is not complete.  I feel like we are living in a surrogate home that does not provide a retreat or refuge from the world and the challenges of ministry.  Again, many have much less, but the challenge of selling a home and paying for both a mortgage and rent has also put our family in an economic challenge.

I feel fortunate for some financial help from the church I serve, but the delay – now 16 months in apartment – has left me with – home deficit.  And I feel thin in emotional wellbeing and wonder how my children will be affected by not only my thinness but by their own sense of home.  Apartment living for us has not provided a real neighborhood, playmates and room to retreat themselves.

What I have learned is that home is also a place to recharge.  A place where family and friends can come to visit and feel comfortable and where I can surround my own family with love and acceptance.

faith famly home – Launched on the anniversary of 25 years of ordained ministry

May 18, 2012

25 years ago I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister (PCUSA) I remember that day as the end of a long journey to become a minister.  The journey started in Covina California where I was nurtured by my home church.  I was 29 years old and at the end of the special ordination service I was able to say the benediction.  My first words “Grace abounds.”  God had led me through and I’ve been faithful to that call ever since.

This purpose of this blog is to relfect on faith in ministry and life.  I want to share thoughts on the family of faith and my own family.  I will write about being at home, in my own home, at home with family, at home with Christ.

Rev. Greg Garis 1987 day of Ordination/Installation