Homecoming 2016

1948 homecoming copy

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Homecoming Is Here!

Homecoming is defined as the act of returning home for an annual celebration for people or returning home after a long time a way. This fourth Sunday in May we will once again gather at Jennings Chapel to celebrate our Homecoming. This is a time that we use to reconnect with family and friends and reminisce about our ancestors. The people who came before left a legacy of brotherhood and commitment to our faith and church. Our cemetery is a physical representation of that love. It is the final resting place for the individuals that our church built its foundation on. From the Hamners, Harpers, Suttons, Jones and Williams to the Pruetts, Camps, Carters, Feigles and Christians the church remains the embodiment of its members, its personality changing has the members add their own gifts to the congregation.

The stories that circulate during meal and afterwards, when small family groups gather in the parking lot, cement the relationships. The remembrances of how the matriarch of the family could control the family all the way down to the grandchildren along with the nieces and the nephews. The expectation was that the family would be represented in church, that the number of people and distance in which they traveled demonstrated the love and respect we had for our ancestors. Some of the food that is brought comes from old recipes, vegetables picked from gardens and always enough food to feed all with leftovers for an evening meal. This traditional coming together allows us to connect with our elders and demonstrate the necessity for cultivating family relationships through both blood and the church congregation.

I will finish with a small story.

While visiting his grandparents, a small boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out. He picked it up and found that it was an old leaf that had been pressed flat between the pages. “Mama, look what I found,” he called out.
“What have you got there, dear?” his mother asked.”
With astonishment in his voice, the boy answered, “I think it’s Adam’s underwear!”

Have a wonderful time at Homecoming!

set of daisys in fresh green grass and sunlight

Spring Is Here!

For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 

The cold weather is receding and the first flowers of the season are peeking out among the brown grass and dead leaves. As the earth renews it’s self so should we. We can start to declutter our lives both physically and spiritually and here are seven rituals suggested by Abigail Brenner M.D.

  1. De-clutter your living space.
    1. Get rid of anything you no longer need. Donate clothing, books and household items that are in reasonably good condition to an organization, charity, library or hospital.
    2. Clear out kitchen and medical cabinets of items that have expiration dates that have passed. 2.) Clear out mental and emotional clutter.
  2. Clear out mental and emotional clutter.
    1. Allow yourself to let go of the past to make room for new things to come into your life.
    2. Commit to making decisions you’ve been putting off.
    3. Challenge limiting beliefs about yourself and about how things should be.
    4. Think positively. When you have had a bad day, vent about your troubles and conclude with finding three blessings. By the time you find the third one you have a smile on your face.
  3. Start a Practice – A daily practice affords you a “time-out” from your everyday routine. This breaking up of a fixed routine can allow you to find a peaceful way to center yourself.
    1. A spiritual practice such as yoga, meditation, or chi gong are easy to find almost anywhere and relatively affordable.
    2. Another practice that you can do on your own is researching and reading sacred texts from many cultures and traditions us.
    3. Walking is a wonderful way to help your body while clearing your mind. Walk instead of drive. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. And remember to change your route! We all are so programmed to do the same routine every day. Change the scenery, change your perspective!
  4. Begin something brand new. Focus on spring as a time of new beginnings and resolve to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never felt you had the time.
    1. Assess your health. Create an inventory of your health including diet, exercise, genetics, and stress Begin slowly, one change at a time, eventually incorporating others.
    2. Explore your creativity. Learn a new language, take piano lessons, awaken the diva within, take a computer class, or go back to school. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream.
    3. Volunteer your time. There are so many ways to give of yourself.
  5. Spend time outdoors and breathe the fresh air.
    1. Plant a flower or vegetable garden. Plant an herb garden in your kitchen or pots of flowers to bring the outside into your home.
    2. Plant a tree with your child and watch it grow together.
    3. Hang a birdhouse or birdfeeder and watch the inhabitants come and go from year to year. Connect to the earth and continuity in the life.
  6. Take a trip, make it something to look forward and reconnect with yourself emotionally and spiritually.
    1. A personal retreat away or a weekend that you give to yourself every year to reflect on your life, the past year, and what new things you may want to incorporate into your life moving forward.
    2. A family reunion, to meet extended family at different destinations each year, allows people to stay connected and affords a sense of belonging and continuity for younger family members.
    3. A family vacation can do the same thing for the immediate members of your family. Camping, hiking, or fishing, visiting an historic site, or a part of the country that’s very different from your own can help family members bond and reconnect from their busy, daily lives.
  7. Simplify your life.
    1. Slow down. As life moves so quickly we need to find a way to quiet our minds and make quality time for ourselves.
    2. “Downshift”, or streamline your life Reevaluate your priorities and commitments. What do you value most in your life? How much quality time do you spend with the people and the things you care about the most? What is the best way to use your time to create the life you want to have?

These seven rituals for renewal can help you to improve the quality of your life.

The Gift

Mary and Jesus image

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

The Christmas season is upon us. The food, decoration, gifts and music mark the holiday as we gather with friends and family to celebrate the birth of Christ. One of my favorite components of the season is the music, the traditional hymns, the classic carols and the new songs written. One of my favorite is “Mary, did you know?”  The song asks the question to Mary as a mother with her newborn child, if she realized what the future held for Christ. Every time I hear the carol I wonder how Mary felt, worried, protective, or calm?

I did some research on the carol to understand why the lyricist wrote it. I was surprised to find out it was written Mark Lowry, a gospel singer and comedian. In an interview he said he had written the lyrics in 1984 for a Christmas Program his church was having. Music was not written for it until 1991 by Bobby Green over a weekend on the Gaither bus. Mark Lowry said his inspiration was his mother when she said “”if anyone knew he was virgin born, Mary knew it”…  Mark’s mother said the silence of Mary at the cross was the greatest proof to her that the story is true.

The words in the song are very powerful. Not only that we are saved through Christ but give a list of the miracles he would perform. The lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see and the power over nature dealing with calming a storm confirm that he was the son of God. The last verse really showed the combination of humanity (born of the Virgin Mary) by referring to the sleeping child and how he would rule nations alluding to the power of God.


[Verse 1]

Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

[Verse 2]

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby bay has walked where angels trod?

And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.

The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

[Verse 3]

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.



Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.  2 Corinthians 9:11-12

The American concept of Thanksgiving was developed in the colonies of New England. The original Pilgrims brought with them a tradition of providential holidays, days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and rejoicing to thank God in times of plenty. Part of the traditions can be found with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who would feast and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest and the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. In addition the Native Americans had a rich tradition of marking the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.

It is believed that the origin of our Thanksgiving Day was based on a festival held in 1623 to celebrate the supplies and news that Captain Miles Standish brought that a Dutch supply ship was on its way. A drought had destroyed their crops and there was concern about their survival through the winter. Over the next 150 years festivals of Thanksgiving were sporadically observes as autumn harvest celebrations. In 1789, Elias Boudinot from Massachusetts, member of the House of Representatives, moved that a day of Thanksgiving be held to thank God for giving the American people the opportunity to create a Constitution to preserve their hard won freedoms. A Congressional Joint Committee approved the motion, and informed President George Washington. On October 3, 1789, the President proclaimed that the people of the United States observe “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on Thursday, the 26th of November.

Most of the credit for the establishment of an annual Thanksgiving holiday may be given to the Editor of Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale. Editor of Ladies Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book, she began to agitate for such a day in 1827 by printing articles in the magazines. She began to promote the holiday through printed articles in the magazine, published stories and recipes. She wrote numerous letters to governors, senators, and presidents and after 36 years of petitioning, she won her battle. On October 3, 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed that November 26, would be a national Thanksgiving Day, to be observed every year on the fourth Thursday of November.

A beautiful sermon about Thanksgiving was delivered by Rev. Thomas Baldwin on February 19, 1795 at the Second Baptist Church in Boston Massachusetts. The sermon, written before the establishment of the Thanksgiving holiday, contained three sections about how we show our thanksgiving to God. Here are several excerpts from it:

I. We are to show when it may be said of a nation that “the Lord is their God.”

As a nation, we form a particular character in distinction from that of individuals. As such, we may exhibit the amiable [likeable] features of virtue and religion, or the base picture of vice and infidelity. In this character we may receive temporal blessings as the fruits and reward of virtue, and also suffer national calamities as the punishment of our vice and impiety.

  1. To show, what evidence a people may have that the Lord hath chosen them for his inheritance.

The terms very naturally imply each other; agreeably to the tenor of the new covenant, “I will be their God and they shall be My people” [Ezekiel 37:27]. And again, “I love them that love me” [Proverbs 8:17].

Although this part of our subject may not appear so capable of proof as the former (since neither love nor hatred can be certainly known by common course of Providence) as one event happeneth to all, yet undoubtedly there may be some rational evidence in favor of the people whom God hath chosen.

III. To infer the duty and obligations of a people thus favored and blessed. The two following inferences very naturally arise from the subject;

  1. If we have chosen the Lord to be our God, it is our indispensible duty to acknowledge with thanksgiving the numerous favors He confers upon us.
  2. As we are dependent creatures, it is our duty to beseech the kind Author of these blessings to continue them to us and to extend those which we enjoy to all mankind.

His conclusion encourages us to see beyond ourselves, recognize the plight of others and live as God would wish us to.

While we commiserate [empathize with] the cause of the unfortunate and sympathize in their distresses, let us endeavor wisely and thankfully to improve our privileges and blessings to the glory of God and the best good of our fellow-men. Let us diligently cultivate habits of “sobriety, order, morality and piety” and study to lead “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty” [1 Timothy 2:2].

Oral History or “Do you remember when…”

Mattie Shirley Harper (Big Ma) and Vera Harper Spencer

Mattie Shirley Harper (Big Ma) and Vera Harper Spencer

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111

As I am growing older I find myself recalling people and my younger years. Although our way of life has improved over the years, the simple pleasures I enjoyed as a youngster seem to have gotten lost in the fast pace that most of us live. I was raised outside of Chicago, Illinois and enjoyed our four seasons but summer was the best because we were going to drive our big Pontiac down 65South to Alabama to visit Maw maw and our cousins. The preparations to drive down here would take about a week, through cleaning the car, washing and packing clothes, make a picnic lunch and deciding which book or toy to bring in the car. My mother was and is amazing, she would take four active children and managed to make it to Alabama with her sanity intact. Once we reached that red gravel road with the dust billowing behind us our summer would officially begin! We never missed a year and established loving relationships with cousins, aunts, uncles and Maw maw. I remember riding horses, playing with the cows, going on adventures in woods, playing games outside like tag, kick the can and hide & seek. We never felt like we were in the way because we were included in everything, good and bad.

We always came when the gardens were ripe for picking. My Uncle (great) Sam was a terrific gardener and would hoe and inspect his many gardens daily, after working at the car parts store. He would pick bushels of tomatoes, peas, green beans, corn, squash, and watermelons. Every evening we would gather on the huge cement screened in porch at my Maw maw’s house and everyone was given a pan and bag so we could peal, shell, snap, shuck and eat the produce that Uncle Sam primarily had pick. It was always after dinner and the daylight was fading into a velvety darkness that created a feeling of isolation and then the talking would begin. Maw maw, Aunt Martha, Great Aunt Mattie, and my mom would begin to reminisce about people who had passed. They would talk about family members and friends with love and a bit of “bless their hearts” as they talked about Great Aunt Matt’s long hair and how she would brush it until it shone, Uncle Felton driving up in his car with his trained chickens, Uncle Hilliard with his special chair and he always came to the house with a bag of goobers. They spoke about taking up the carpet in the front room (living room) of Uncle Joe and Aunt Johnnie’s, throwing corn meal on the floor and have a dance; apparently Great Uncle Joe was a fantastic dancer. Uncle Archie’s years spent out of the country traveling with Aunt Nell for work. Can you imagine if any of that could have been recorded? Listening to someone telling their story in their voice, be able experience them as a person rather than just a name? How great that would be!

We have this opportunity now and to some extent are actually doing this with videos and chats. But what about your life, the things you seen changed and experienced during your life time? When they are researching your life how precious would a recording be or at the least a written document about what you felt was important to you, what made you the individual you are. So, challenge yourself, the next time your grandchild comes over, a sister, aunt, uncle, parent or a friend, take five minutes and record a conversation with them. Save it. Once you do one it will become something you will want to do with others. Ok, I know it will be difficult so here are some topics. “I remember the first time I….” or “Do you remember when we met?” or “The most important person in life is/was…” You would be surprise how much you do have to say. Preserve your history for the generations to come.

Recognizing our Heros

Patriotic FlagLive as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:16


With in the next couple of weeks we will be celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, with fireworks, bar-b-que and family. Jennings United Methodist Church family has many heros buried in the cemetery, these individuals who stood up for us so we can enjoy the freedoms outlined in the Declaration of Independence. “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—“

Below is the list of servicemen and women buried at Jennings Chapel United Methodist Cemetery.

Joseph Donald Atchison

Joseph Henry Bell

Roy C. Caldwell

Richard A. Duren

Alfred L. Freeman

Memorial for Joseph Hardin

Samuel Harper

A.M.D. Howard

Fletcher Jomes

James Walker McDaniel

Paul G. Meadows Sr.

James T. Moore

Rev. John C. Powell

Paul John Rossman

John H. Schmidt

James R. Sutton

Oliver Harwood Sutton

William G. Thompson

Amon Elijah Turner

Benjamin Williams

Bertie H. Williams

James B. “Jimmy” Williams

John Powell Williams (Rev.)

Wlaton H. Wright

John J. Yerby

Thank you to all service men and women, those who are still with their families and those that have gone home.

Do you have a story about one of your family’s heros?


1948 homecoming 2 blog1948 homecoming 2HOMECOMING

We are about to mark our 95th Homecoming this year.

This tradition has kept the founding families connected to a church that was established on January 4th, 1850. The purchase of two acres of land was “to include the Meeting House and graveyard”. The structure has gone through at least three new building, each one to accompanied a growing congregation. We have celebrated births, marriages and baptism and grieve with the passing of a member. We have supported our community as representatives of our church.

Homecoming is time for us to commune with each us and remember the people who have passed, reminisce of past Homecomings and strengthen our bonds. The wooden tables under the trees laden with so much food, sitting in the cemetery watching the children play tag around their ancestors and singing that lasted all afternoon. We have had many wonderful speakers talk about their families and memories, allowing a nostalgic feeling permeate the sanctuary. The beautiful tradition of lighting the candles to represent a church/family member who had passed that year never leaves a dry eye.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

So, here is a question for you. What is your fondest memory of Homecoming?