For most of my adult life I have been that relative who has lived far away. This has made me especially appreciative of family when we have an opportunity to gather. This past week-end we have been in Nacogdoches, Texas for our nephew’s wedding. This is my wife’s sister’s son. He was two years old when I met him, and is now thirty-five. He has married a wonderful woman, and they had a beautiful wedding.

The best that I can figure, it has been a little over three years since I have been in Texas. I was surprised that it has been so long! It amazes me how time flies by while I stay so busy with my life. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that it is mostly weddings and funerals that triggers my visits. My family is reaching that point where we can anticipate in the upcoming years there will be more funerals than weddings.

I understand that not everyone lives a long ways from their family like my wife and I do. My question, though, is how much are we appreciating our family? I seem to see a lot of families fighting, and talking bad about one another. I hear stories about family members refusing to have any contact with each other. Some of these situations are necessary for safety. Most, however, are dealing with other issues. Pride and anger are two of the issues that frequently bubble to the surface. Sometimes it is no more than family not being a high enough priority in the midst of chaotic daily schedules.

I’m not judging other families, or even my own. I just want to make the observation that each of us has a limited amount of time in this world. There will come a time when everyone, including the people who we love the most, will pass from this world. I believe in life eternal, but I know from personal experience that death of a loved one is still very difficult to deal with. The time that we have here and now is very valuable. How are we spending our time?

I can’t help but think about our church families as I explore this train of thought. It saddens me to see how often church families fight, members leave, and sometimes the church splits. We are in a time where we are questioning the future of the United Methodist Church. I really think that the major issue boils down to how do we love and respect one another as brothers and sisters in Christ when we totally disagree with each other on some issues. Can we still be family when we have major disagreements? I think that the answer is yes.

The older I get, the more that I can see that family is a gift from God. I’m finding that relationships are the most precious part of my life. The “things” of life are nice, but in the end, they are still “things”. Love flows through relationships. Personal visits are still my favorite way to connect, however, technology has provided other ways to connect. Are there any connections that you have been putting off making? Today might be a good day to reach out! Are there any relationships that you value that are being damaged because of “issues”? Maybe this is the time to put the issues to the side. The time that we make today to connect—or re-connect—with someone that we love might turn into a cherished memory tomorrow!

Your brother on the journey, Mark

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