Thanksgiving 2013

Thomas, our grandson who is two, heard the train that runs behind our home.  He hears it before he sees it. With all the energy a two year old can muster, he runs to the end of the street where he can stand and look as the train roars by.  It is joy unspeakable for him.  It is also a great gift to his Papa and Gran!It’s hard to remember the shear joy of childhood.  I am sure I once was that joyful over the small things like playing hide-n-seek or having a favorite book read or running and falling in a pile of freshly raked leaves. I wish I could remember. I can’t.

That may well be why God gives us children and grandchildren…to remind us that grace is gift. Undeserved.  Unmerited.  Full of joy.

  • A call comes from an old friend we have not seen nor spoken to in years.
  • We find an old book, one that we read in a former time, and we remember still the passages that changed the course of our lives.
  • We walk into the house and the familiar smells of fresh rolls baking take us back to a time when we were all still around the table and all under one roof.

Grace came another way last weekend for me. Against my better judgment last Saturday night, I braved the cold and watched the football game between Ole Miss and Missouri.   My brother invited me. It’s been 30 years since we attended a college football game together. The first “real” football we ever owned growing up was an Ole Miss game ball given to us when my Dad was appointed pastor at First United Methodist Church, Fulton, MS, by Malcolm Stubblefield.  My memories of the Ole Miss football run deep. Saturdays working with my dad and listening to Stan Torgensen call the play by play as Archie “Who” led Archie’s Army.

To be with my brother and sister-in-law, to be at an SEC football game of consequence, to experience the liturgy that is college football today:  Grace.  An unexpected grace—even if my toes were numb by the end.

The trip home this Thanksgiving is stirring memories of ties that bind.

These days, our Mississippi home has become something of an oasis, a place of renewal, a place to recharge our batteries, to pray, to reflect, to be still.

On this Thanksgiving journey, I am home with family.  I touch the places of my youth and am thankful. I walk by the old football field where I tried my best to become something more than the image of my adolescent self. I venture into the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church and remember the means of grace that came to me unexpected, unmerited, always gift. I remember Wayne and Rheta Ann West, Mary Hall, Jo Ann Jernigan, Bo Moffitt, Julia Barkley and a whole host of others whose love and energy and commitment to Christ and His Church shaped my emerging faith in ways that continue to be profound, I know grace.  These are the gifts of faith. Sitting in the cold, damp environs of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last Saturday night, I gave thanks for all that has brought me to this place.

This day, though, I am thinking of Thomas.  Thomas, who has come into our family as gift—adopted by his parents, grafted into our family. Adopted child of God. One day he, too, will remember the ties that bind him to sisters and brothers in Christ.  Someone will remind him that he is baptized. He will run into Abe Gurner, his best friend at Brewer United Methodist Church.  They will greet each other. And both will give thanks and remember.

 I trust we will all remember in this season of deep gratitude, that our ties to one another run deep.  As the stress lines on our covenant are stretched, may we reach into the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds, to find a better way forward, filled more with gratitude than with judgment. May we be filled with thanksgiving for all God has created. And may we cease to pass judgment on another until we have walked two miles in their shoes.

And when we do, may we give thanks to God for the Grace that is ours through the gift of Jesus Christ.

May God’s richest blessings be yours as you gather around a bountiful table of blessings with friends and family.

Lynn and I are blessed beyond measure to be among you.

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I am thankful for you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I am sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.  I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You area all my partners in God’s grace.  Philippians 1:3-7a.

22 Comments on “Thanksgiving 2013”

  1. sammiewalker says:

    I am thankful that you are our bishop and for your personal touch as well as your expert leadership. As Mike Morris reminds us at St. Paul In Lakeland every Sunday, “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good. Thanks be to God!

  2. Vona Wilson says:

    …”to experience the liturgy that is college football today”. I appreciate so much that your eyes see the holy in all that is here. Thank you for this post. I am also deeply grateful for you. For your leadership, for the way you and Lynn are present with us, for the way you listen to God. Keep listening. We all cover you in prayer.

  3. ah, Bishop ~ and I am thankful for you and Lynn as well. A wonderful Thanksgiving letter – one that encouraged me step back into my own memories as well. God’s richest blessings on you and your family this Thanksgiving Day ~~~

  4. Gay Crew says:

    Blessings to you and your family for His Thanksgiving grace.

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Birgitte Thaarup French says:

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours

  6. Jane says:

    Enjoy New Albany this weekend! We love our trips back there…to home…family and friends and many treasured memories! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  7. Karen Geary says:

    You and Lynn are a blessing to our family and we are thankful God sent you our way. Travel safely.

  8. Vida McClure says:

    Moved me back into my childhood memories with my Dad and I sitting at the piano – the two of singing – Mule Train!!!!

    • Vida McClure says:

      Amazing how typed mistakes jump off the page after you throw the carriage . . . “with my Dad and me”

  9. S. Troutt says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. Peace to you and yours!

  10. Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing your heart. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We Pray for you as well as you answer God’s call on your life to shepherd this part of Body of Christ.
    I pray that this season of Thanksgiving is only a restful, fun, and meaningful part of your life lived in Thanksgiving.
    Peace, Stephen and Deb Webb

  11. Jeff Rudy says:

    Wonderful post! The peace of Christ be with you and your family this holiday, Bishop!

  12. Jerry B. Carr says:

    One of our greatest reasons for thanksgiving presently is Bishop Bill McAlilly! Our prayers are with you daily, and we thank God for your leadership. Joyfully, Dot & Jerry Carr

  13. Sheila Murley says:

    Thank you Bill. As I read your message, I remembered my own journey from innocence, to adulthood, gatherings of a large family now dwindled to a few scattered…separated by miles but not by heart. May God continue to bless you fully as you bless others. Happy Thanksgiving.

  14. Deen Thompson says:

    The gift of remembrance, we give thanks. For family, friends, and life shared with so many who touch our lives and bring us closer to each other and to God. Today I think God for you and your family. May this Thanksgiving be extra special.

  15. Ken Edwards says:

    We are thankful for you and Lynn, and hope that your time with family is rich and blessed.

  16. Virginia Jones Finzel says:

    I am reminded of a song written by Kate Campbell entitled Mississippi and Me…
    The chorus goes like this:
    Way down in me a river runs deep
    Reminding me just who I am
    Good or bad, it’ll always be
    Mississippi and me…Mississippi and me
    I love my home state of Mississippi! For good or for bad…I love it!
    The river of Mississippi Methodism also runs deeply through my soul. Last week, as I stood with my 89 year old mother, my two sisters and our husbands, in the courtyard of the church in which I grew up, FUMC-Corinth, to see the steeple, restored and back in place atop the sanctuary and lit up – well, it was a moment of majesty, memories, deep gratitude, and grace! We are richly blessed! Thanksgiving blessings to you and to yours!

  17. CarolAnn says:

    We thank God for you…We thank God that you and your family are sharing time together…relaxing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. buena2 says:

    We are thankful for your service and leadership. Blessings on you and your family.

  19. V.R. Chatham says:

    And it is grace that God has blessed so many of us with your leadership, friendship and kindness…

  20. Blessing on you and your family this Thanksgiving season…

  21. garydlawsonsr says:

    Very meaningful words. We are very thankful for the McAlillys and the amazing leadership you are providing. Happy Thanksgiving!