Friday, December 16, 2016

Morton Family Christmas Prayer - 2016

Dear Lord,

Thank you so much for bringing us together again to celebrate both the birth of your son and to celebrate our incredible family for yet another year. You’ve blessed each one of us with so much to be thankful for, and this year I’d like to thank you for the love you’ve given to us. Love carries us through the highs and lows. It brings us together and gives us strength. The love we have for this family is what keeps this amazing Christmas tradition going year after year. This year, I’ve selected a passage from The Bible that explains how much your gift of love means to us.

In Corinthians Thirteen: 4 through 7 it states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is proud.” We are proud to be part of our wonderful family. We are so lucky and blessed to have each other for support. The love that Nana and Pop Pop had for each other and this family has been carried down through generations of this family.

The next passage says, “It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” Christmas is the season of forgiveness and tradition and love. It is during this time where we rediscover what means the most to us during a time that feels as if it gets busier and more stressful each year.

Next it writes, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” The love in our incredible family guides each of us to be successful and true to our morals and our family values.

Finally, Corinthians states, “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Nothing could be more true about the love in this family. As time progresses, we only get closer to one another. This family has so much growth for the future, and we can learn so much from our past. Your gift of love has molded us into who we are today and it will continue to shape us as a family for a long time to come. For that, we are so very thankful.

Amen

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Morton Family Christmas Prayer - 2015

Dear Lord,

Here we are in a new location to celebrate the same Christmas tradition that has been going strong for so many years. Although it may be new change from the past, this family’s love and values run deeper than ever. And this simple evolution highlights something that I think should be considered: the significance of our family’s new beginnings and old traditions.

This amazing family in which we are so very grateful for is together once again to celebrate the love we have for one another. We are so lucky to be this close, and this Christmas tradition truly reflects that. So although we may have moved, this change is only a testament to the family members that have paved the road ahead of us. We are extraordinarily thankful to be able to spend each and every Christmas season together as a family.

This year we have been blessed again with an ever expanding family. New faces have been added to the family tree this year and with it, we are reminded of the two whose legacy is the reason why we are all gathered here today. Their love for us formed the basic frame by which we all stand upon today. Their values are present in all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, and these values will continue to be passed down for generations to come.

What hasn’t changed is that this evening remains as a tribute to our Heavenly Father and a sacrifice so great, it’s hardly fathomable. Our Lord’s hands bless this family with care, direction, protection, the principles of what is right and wrong, how to love and care for one another, and much, much more. This family has followed His guidance for seven decades now, and this Christmas tradition is a celebration of our love and gratitude for Him.

Our lives are filled with new beginnings—tonight being one of them. Let tonight’s new beginning help you appreciate just how special this Christmas tradition really is. The love that this family has for one another is amazing, and for that, we are extremely thankful.

Amen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Morton Family Christmas Prayer - 2014

Dear Lord,

Legacies. With the loss that this family has endured this year, it’s a word that means a little something more this holiday season. I believe it to mean what you leave behind. With some it might be wealth. For some, it might be grand ideas. With your Son, it was salvation. For some, it is family… with a set of values that provide a sense of doing what’s right, standing by your convictions and providing an example for everyone on every branch of the family tree to model.

Lord, some people might think of a legacy as something only extremely wealthy or extremely influential or extremely saintly people can hope to leave. That’s unfortunate, as I think everyone leaves a legacy of one kind or another and it’s up to us to decide what we want it to be and whether we want to ask from guidance from above for direction.

Lord, guide us in shaping our own spiritual legacy. We all have a spiritual impact on our family, our community, and, through service or giving or prayer, on people around the world and in future generations. Our Nana was a shining star example.

I think the best spiritual legacy we might leave is living in the moment. And how we might let God to work through us if He chooses.

We know that God alone can change the course of actions here on earth– and we pray today for the salvation of people around the world, for social ills…and moral decline… we pray that God will hear us tonight and answer our prayers in ways only He can do.

But I also pray that you may provide a path of light so that we may travel down a path of making positive change in this world ourselves. I wish tonight for us all to use the example of those that have come before us and consciously design legacies of our own… legacies that include the betterment of the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of our family, friends, acquaintances and beyond. If God chooses for His own reasons to work through the prayers of His people, as the Bible says He does, then may we pray tonight that our spiritual legacies provide a living and breathing example of all that is good and right while we are here on earth.

Let us showcase the love that we have for one-another, go out of our way to lend a helpful hand, make decisions that are the right ones, (even thought they might not be the popular ones), have mercy and forgiveness, give your time, share your faith and most importantly, open your heart. Let us think about our impact around others often and help us provide a myriad of ways we can all have spiritual impact and leave that impactful spiritual legacy. Each of us is uniquely situated to do the specific work God has ordained for us. While we long for those that are missing here tonight, isn’t it amazing that a single lifetime can exude such an amazing loving legacy that will continue to leave and breathe inside each of us in our lifetimes and beyond?

THAT is an amazing spiritual legacy. What will yours be?

Amen

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Video Interview With Nana and Pop Pop Morton

This Christmas, my sister Wendy and her husband Rob gave the Morton family a treasure: a previously unknown video interview of my grandparents talking about how they met, how they fell in love and their history together. Favorite part: when my Pop Pop says, "I really didn't live before I met her." Together 70 years and now again in heaven.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Nana's Memorial Speech- A Family's Matriarch Passes Away

Charlotte Morton, the undeniable matriarch of the Morton Family, passed away this year after more than 90 years on this earth. While this wasn't a Christmas prayer specific to the family, I felt it important to include it as her passing and service left an undeniable mark on the family that will be felt for decades. This was the speech that I gave at her service.

Nana’s Memorial Speech

With each, “I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother,“ that’s been passed along sincerely to my family and I over the past week, it’s given me great pause and reflection to come up with something short and meaningful to properly reflect the importance of role that she played in this family. How do you possibly say in a sentence or two the impact that she had on nearly every person in this room? How can a simple sentence like, “She had a long and full life,” even properly give her justice? Short of sitting down and sharing her story, how do you allude to a love that provided an indelible and permanent mark on us forever and forged a family wide in size and deep in kinship? Three children, ten grandchildren, dozens of great-grandchildren- and recently, a great-great grandchild- all looked to her as the matriarch of the Morton Family.

Nana wasn’t complicated by any means. She had an incredibly strong navigational moral compass and the world was black and white without much gray. Her common-sense meter was as strong as any person I’ve met and if it failed that test, well, she would probably let you know. Bluntly. There wasn’t time for beating around the bush. She told you like it was. And more times than not, that’s how it really was. She was fiercely independent and embodied that great 1920’s stubborn work ethic that anything good in this world was worth whatever hard work that came along with it. Nana was tough as nails. There was nothing she couldn’t build, take apart, drive, put together, create or do. Can’t wasn’t in her vocabulary. Do you remember the famous World War II-era Rosie the Riveter poster that has a lady flexing her muscle and saying “We Can Do It?” Nana might have been the model for that.

It’s hard to separate memories between Nana and my Pop Pop. For nearly 70 years, the two of them were nearly inseparable and she doted on my grandfather with the patience of a saint. Pop Pop called her "Babe" for as far back as I can remember. It was the highest of high compliments that he could pay her. She cared for him as well as anyone could ever hope for through a myriad of life-long illnesses and would just smile and humor him when Pop Pop would spend endless hours chroming and pimping out his Ford Escort or search endless hours through every tackle and bait store in Northern California and beyond for that elusive magic fishing lure. Through sickness and health wasn’t just words in a ceremony, they were a vow she kept for seven decades. Pop Pop was a lucky man and he knew it.

You also can’t separate the thought of Nana and the images of past Christmas mornings. My earliest memories are there in her trailer on Whispering Palms Drive, Nana making the most delicious breakfast spread. I would sit there on a footstool in front of the mail slot at the sliding glass front door, taking in the smells and listening to the family stories that occurred before me. That was also right in front of the hole that an errant Pop Pop-thrown bowling ball that had been carefully covered by one of Nana’s perfectly sized framed cross-stitches. As the family expanded with marriages and new babies, we outgrew her home and moved across the street to the park clubhouse. Remember, I mentioned lots of grandkids and great-grandkids? Eventually, we moved away from Nana’s but only in physicality. It was always Nana’s show. A couple years back, she gave me copies of all of the family Christmas prayers that had been read by Pop Pop, my Dad and then I over the last four decades. They make up one of my most prized possessions. And those Christmas-gift quilts. They’re hard to even fathom the amount of hours of love that went into each one. They’re another possession that each of us lucky enough to receive one know that they’re irreplaceable.

Nana’s passion for travel and the outdoors was another hand-me-down memory. I remember vividly memories of sitting in her Pace Arrow motorhome dining room table. Under the glass was a map of the United States where she or Pop Pop had drawn in ink over every highway and city they had visited in that stylish olive green set of wheels. There was lines drawn in what looked like every state. On every highway. Nana would sit there and share her travels with us with the tip of her finger as her guide, sharing visions of National Parks, roadside attractions and historic stops to any wide-eyed kids that would listen. And while on the surface it might have looked like it was Pop Pop’s thing, Nana shared a passion for fishing as well. And could that lady fish. I remember once her taking Jennifer and I out on the Delta for catfish. She launched the boat, drove the boat, carefully took time helping Jen learn how to bait her tackle (okay, maybe she baited Jen’s tackle), and promptly caught somewhere around 30 fish in a few hours’ time. When we got back into the marina, she took Jen over to the fish cleaning station to show her how to clean and filet the fish. Jen admits to not helping much that early afternoon, but she did see Nana wield a knife with a faster skill than most master sushi makers- an astonishment Jen still talks about today.

I for one, will remember her most for what she left behind. A family that adored her. A model and example of an almost-impossibly long model of a marriage that we can all point to as an example. A passion for travel and the outdoors. And these keepsakes. These irreplaceable and priceless quilts and blankets and dollhouses are just some of them. But the memories of making jam and smoking salmon and fishing are just as equal keepsakes that we’ll hold just as dear. I love you Nana. We’ll miss you Babe.

The Morton Family at the conclusion of Nana Morton's service

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Morton Family Prayer - 2013

Dear Heavenly Father,

This year, I’d like to propose that we make Christmas last the whole year long. No, we won’t find a magic time machine and hold time still in December. What I wish for is for us to practice year-round all the things that we see and do during the season of Christmas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would take the themes and promises of Christmas with us all the way through the New Year before us? We are all blessed to have roofs over our heads and an incredible extended family for love and support, but couldn’t we all benefit if we took our values of love and trust from the home, and use those values to better our community?

It is at home where we don’t just talk about “peace & good will to men” but where we learn to live it. Our parents lead by example and then we, a second generation, will go out into the world as ambassadors of change. Home is the place where we are molded, in addition to preparing us each day for the world tomorrow. Home teaches each and every one of us how to fashion our world so that we make it a better place for all.

Wouldn’t it be magical if every of us took the message of Christmas and made it a permanent part of our lives, and we put it into practice all year long? Jesus in our lives is the one thing that makes all the difference - that gives us a solid foundation, the strength to endure, & even to overcome. So the real work of Christmas is only beginning. The Christmas season isn’t nearly over. In fact, it’s just starting. It’s the spark for us to use this celebration of Christ’s birth to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to renew lost relationships, to rebuild the nation, to bring peace among brothers & sisters, and to make music in the heart. This is the real work of Christmas!

Yes, we’ll take down our Christmas trees & put the decorations back in storage for another year. All the presents will have been unwrapped, the suspense will have ended. But this year, I wish for us to make the music linger. May the songs of peace & good stay forever in our hearts. May our homes be filled with the fragrances, sounds, & excitement of Christmas forever. It will be the sounds of our family members laughing, our close friends sharing, the discovery of new opportunities made possible by God’s hand. May we take its message with us so that the entire world might be touched by it… as we have been touched by it.

This evening is God’s invitation to you- to all be celebrating Christmas in July.

Amen

Monday, December 31, 2012

Morton Family Prayer- 2012


Dear Lord,

Our family Christmas dinner is a conflict of emotions this year. We celebrate your son’s birthday and the ability for this clan to all come together in remarkable numbers. We celebrate a new birth and a new marriage. And yet our heart aches for one magic light that’s missing from the room.

Lord, I ask you to continue to heal those hearts who ache this Christmas season and allow us all to slowly release the pain and questions that rest in our hearts. Please enable us through your grace to know you are listening -- and that you care. Come to those who grief as the Father of all comfort.

Let us turn our eyes to you as we seek to find the strength to trust in your faithfulness. Hearts are crushed, but let us know that we are not abandoned. We simply have an angel that is waiting for us to greet us all when we are called home to your kingdom. Though difficult to see past today, let us trust in your great love and great master plan.

May the eternal memory of those we miss remind us that the hustle and bustle of life makes it easy for us to be absent from life’s real blessings far too much. Sorrow makes it impossible for us to be absent, and so, blesses us with real presence. In the midst of our sorrows, distractions fall away, and we are there, raw and open, often confused, always vulnerable, little and great. May that love provide an indelible mark on us forever and open us up to a deeper relationship with you and those in this room.

While the world celebrates around us, let us remember Christmas celebrations of the past. Remind us through dual magical and melancholy memories that you sent your son to be with us in our deepest sorrows and I know that he is by our side, here with us, grieving with us, caring for us, loving us. Let our sorrow act as a navigational compass for us to realize the truly important things in this life and draw deeper meaning and compassion in our relationships.

Lord, our God, this year, you reminded us of the fragility of the human condition and the brevity of our lives on earth. But for those who believe in your love, death is not the end, nor does it destroy the bonds that you forge in our lives. It simply makes them eternal. For that, we give thanks. Eternally.

Amen.

Morton Family Prayer- 2011


Dear Heavenly Father,

As we gather here today with immediate family, extended relatives, friends and neighbors, let us remember why we come together to spend this day. As I look at their faces and remember their stories- our stories- feelings of gratitude wash over us for the blessings too many to count. Sure, there have been challenges. Our journey is fraught with fear and anxiety. But just as you have provided a canopy of love and forgiveness over this life, a compass of faith that shows us the path, you have surrounded us with these loved ones that have acted like guiding posts on our travels. In the times that we have been oblivious to this support network you have provided, please forgive. For the times we have not accepted this unending love, please reprieve.  As you’ve provided this incredible event and brought all of those together that have provided a generational compass to show us the way to what true love means, let us give the highest form of thanks we know how.

Lord, this is our prayer on this Christmas dinner. May this be a reminder for us to live a life of gratefulness and appreciation in our day to day.  And like the growing Christ child we read about in the good book, let us grow in wisdom daily, seeking to know you and the path you’ve chosen for us in mind and spirit. Let us meet those challenges that are put in front of us without cowardice- facing them with a bold and humble strength. Each member in this room is the net to catch us and rescue us if we should fail. Let us remember that the true value of the individual is the notion of sacrifice. Like you did for us, let us make it our duty to provide for others to the best of our ability and to leave this world a better place at the end of the day than at the beginning. And let us live these words not just in this time around your birth, what we call Christmas, but let these life missives direct us year-round.

This Christmas season brings us happiness as we are with our family. Too will this Christmas evening when we crawl into our various warm beds with grateful thoughts of you. Please help us remember the birth of your son Jesus Christ and that we may share with the songs of your heavenly Angels, the worship of your son the messiah on this glorious day.  Thank you, Lord, for providing for us so generously in our life and for opening the door for your love for us and everyone around us.

Amen.

Morton Family Prayer- 2010


Dear Lord,

As this amazingly enormous and close family gathers today in your honor, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on all of those things that we are so incredibly grateful for.

We are first grateful for life. Grateful for all the warm loving homes that we’ve been placed in and for all the people that you’ve brought across our paths. We’re grateful for our beloved children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, cousins, and friends that might as well be family. We are grateful for the ability to love, the willingness to forgive and the opportunity to be forgiven. We are forever blessed with an abundance of people who care about us as individuals and who we can return that love to. We feel grateful for all the wonderful teachers in our lives that have taken so many shapes. They have helped us to stand up for ourselves, speak the truth, face our fears, see ourselves more clearly and teach patience, tolerance and forgiveness. We are grateful for the experience of being fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. You’ve blessed us with multiple generations where we can honor the newborn and the eldest with equal celebration.

We are grateful for this beautiful Earth and all living plants and creatures that make this a paradise of color and diversity. We’re honored that you allow us the opportunity to travel this planet and soak in the wonder that you have created for us.

We are grateful God for Life- including sound bodies and minds and for opening hearts to compassion, strength, courage, determination, perseverance and joy. The blessings that you have granted by touching us and guiding us with your hand are unending in their proportions- it is love pure and unadulterated.

We are grateful for our purpose- that in the end, you bring us to a path that we are meant to walk. We remain thankful for lining that path with family and friends, for love, divine guidance, shelter, nourishment, health, truth, balance, harmony, grace, mercy, forgiveness, passion and happiness. We are thankful for rising each and every day to see beauty in things that most people take for granted.

Let us just for a moment, Lord, hold this night in our heart. Help us remember the immense love we share for each of us in this room. With each gift that is opened today, let it be an extension of the many ways you gift us each day, especially with your presence in our hearts and the presence of each other in our lives.

Amen

Morton Family Prayer- 2009


Dear Lord,

For those of us that you have blessed with children, you have also blessed us with the resources to honor your birth with special gifts and toys on Christmas Day. And through your grace, you’ve brought friends and family members into our lives that have done the same.

Now, occasionally, those blessed toys arrive to our homes unassembled. And somehow they arrive with more pieces than is even fathomable. And usually, they arrive with directions that are in French or Chinese. Although it could be Latin or even pig-Latin. But through this laborious process, which in itself can be a test of faith- in our hand-eye coordination- I’m reminded of how there really can and should be a list of instructions on how to celebrate Christ’s birth and Christmas Day. So I’ve taken the liberty of making a short list of five instructions on How To Assemble A Merry Christmas. And it’s not even in Chinese…

Step One- First, follow the instructions and discover the main part.
A Merry Christmas begins and ends with a baby in a manger. Short and sweet- but through all of the noise and all of the holiday clutter, it comes down to a baby in a manger.

Step Two- Get someone else to help you celebrate.
No time of the year is more profitable for the soul than Christmas. The shepherds increased their joy by spreading the good news of Jesus' birth and we can do the same. Like we’ve done here tonight, surround yourself with as many family and friends as you can to share this gift.

Step Three- Take time to think it through.
The message of Christmas is not in the fact that we buy gifts or decorate buildings.   If anything, that commercialism can distract us from just simply celebrating the real blessings and gifts you bring us throughout the year.  

Fourth- Don't throw any of the parts away.
Every detail that surrounds Christmas is important and must not be forgotten.  If it becomes lost then our Merry Christmas is just a poor facsimile of the original. Center our traditions and celebration around the things that remind us of that blessed event- that goes for Christ’s birth as well as every family gathering that celebrates that birth.

Step Five- Don't stop until the job is done.
A Merry Christmas just begins in December.  It continues the whole year through. Let the joy of Christmas change you. Carry it’s principles with you 365 days a year.

These five steps to assemble a Merry Christmas are clear, if not always easy.  It takes a little effort. Heaven knows, however, it’s worth every effort.

O God, bless our family and all its members and friends;
bind us together by your love.
Give us kindness and patience to support each other;
and wisdom in all we do.
Let the gift of your peace come into our hearts and remain with us.
May we rejoice in your blessings for all our days.

Amen.

Morton Family Prayer - 2008

Dear Lord,

We welcome two more babies to this ever-growing family this year… It’s a fact said in equal parts pure joy and disbelief. And it is the fact that bonds each of us equally, for if we aren’t parents ourselves, we are all children. All children tied by blood, marriage or friendship to this wonderfully crazy, tragic, mostly magic, beautiful life.

We have babies of all ages here tonight, some just a few weeks old, some toddlers, some adolescents, a few teenagers, a few almost-adults, and some all the way up into their late 60’s. We have babies bigger than their mommas and many who are closing in fast. Our babies make us laugh until we cry, and cry because they cry. Like a ship in a bottle, the baby is buried deep within each of us, some barely discernable except for the reminders of our parents or tattered black and white photographs.

When we look back on those photographs, or even better, the ones we’ve taken as snapshots in our mind, they are battered, spotted & well-used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages of that mental photo album, memories will rise like dust.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. Every part of raising children is humbling. Believe me, mistakes have been made. If you believe what we read today, my cousins and I were raised in asbestos-laden and lead-paint houses & seatbeltless cars. Yet here we are. I’m sure have all been enshrined in the 'Remember-When-Mom-Or-Dad-Did-This' Hall of Fame. I’ll be proud to have my statue standing right next to my parents.

The times we arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The time I came home from my first fight at school, my mom said wait until your dad comes home and his only response was, “Did you win?”

But the biggest mistake we make is the one that most of us make while doing “the day to day.” We do not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone. Moments with my parents, my siblings, my cousins, many moments captured only in photographs. Moments like this summer sitting with my sisters and their families together in a campsite in Yosemite around a fire. I hope I can forever remember what we ate, what we talked about, how the kids sounded, how they laughed, how they ran out into the lake to retrieve their caught fish, how they looked when they slept that night, and how disheveled they looked when they woke up. I hope not to be in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I treasure doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

I wish for more moments like this one right here.

We’re all children with expectations. Some like my new little Heather, have very big shoes to fill. I pray that she’ll hold life half as precious as her namesake did. My cousin Heather had a million life moments, ones that were etched onto each of us here. And I hope that the expectations that my little Heather lives a life as full are not mine, but simply her own. And I pray that it’s one that is memorable. For her. For all of us.

Amen

Morton Family Prayer- 2007


Dear Lord,

Once upon a time so many times in this big family, we’ve had a baby born in the middle of the night in a local delivery room.  Before you know it, they’re off to school and then seem to graduate from school what seems to be just a few months later.  They’ve gone on to serve their country, save lives in the line of fire, started businesses that have employed hundreds, and given a loving home and foundation for their own families.  Each one of us touches so many in a positive way- in our own way.  The world's a better place for all that baby has grown up and done.  And it’s funny when you think about the reason we’re alive to even pass on that gift.

All because two people fell in love

Right now at this little community center here in Sacramento, you'll find delicious food and more presents than you can count.  The whole Morton family has drove in here- sometimes from four hours away.  Arthur Morton said that sixty plus years ago he knew that Miss Charlotte was the one.  And only because of that fact do four generations get together every December.
 
All because two people fell in love

A beautiful 15-year old brunette girl named Jennifer was introduced to me by a big sister and brought me a to a higher plane of love that I didn’t even know existed.  Then came marriage, a home, a busy family with three busier boys, in a living room cluttered with strewn toys, only interrupted with never-ending trips to school, soccer and little league games.  It’s a life filled blessings and one I wouldn’t change for anything.   And my wife & my blessed life was only brought to me, like each life partner was brought to each one of you,

All because two people fell in love

Every single thing’s affected
When two hearts get connected
All that is, ever was, or will be
Has been passed from above to you and me
Every single choice we make
Every breath we get to take
Be glad your dad could not resist
Your mama's charms, because you exist
You know, to me it's all so clear
Every one of us is here
All because two people fell in love

Amen