TONY ELDER: Uphold the traditional values that keep families strong

Every so often my mom's birthday will fall on Thanksgiving, as is the case this year. When that happens, it always serves as a good reminder that one of the biggest blessings for which I have to be grateful is our family. It's not just my mother, but my dad, my sister and her husband, my wife, our children and grandchildren, and yes, even my in-laws.

As a matter of fact, someone recently informed me that he had become acquainted with my son-in-law, and commented on how blessed I am to have him as the father of my grandkids.

I'm thankful that our family is of the fairly traditional variety. I won't use the word "normal" because some would question the use of that description for certain individuals among our clan -- although I'll refrain from naming specific names as examples.

Many of us are acutely aware that we live in a day when circumstances and choices have resulted in a wider variety of family relationships. Additionally, there are those who are intentionally seeking to redefine the concept of family.

In the midst of these changing views of what makes up a modern family, I'm thankful for those who seek to stay true to the traditional values -- not just because it's what some of us are accustomed to, but because I believe that model is more closely aligned with God's plan for the family.

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Bil Keane, the creator of the "Family Circus" comic strip. For as long as I can remember I have followed the everyday adventures of that cartoon family in the newspapers. And no wonder I can't recall life without it -- I discovered that the strip began just a few months after I was born.

Over the years this cartoonist modernized his fictitious family as far as topics, technology, and style. Do you remember all the hoopla some years ago when he decided to change the longstanding and outdated hairstyle of the mom?

Yet, in spite of keeping the family up-to-date in many ways, the strip continued to maintain those important values. Bil Keane wasn't afraid to show a family that, through all the ups and downs and squabbles, still loved each other, ate meals together, went on family vacations, attended church, and prayed.

One of the ideas that showed up in the strip periodically was the tracking of one of the kids around the house or the neighborhood. Instead of following a straight line and the shorter distance to his destination, he would wander all over the place before finally completing his journey.

I'm concerned that we have wandered off from the straight path that God intended for the family. As a result, individuals, families, and society as a whole are suffering the consequences. We've strayed from the view of a wedding being a sacred event, and see it primarily as a social event. We've wandered from the concept of marriage being a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. We've come to see divorce as too viable an option.

It's not just a matter of veering off from tradition, but rather distancing ourselves from what God knows is best for us and our families.

We may not be able to control or change the current composition of our family or the situation into which we were born. We may already be in less than ideal circumstances due to poor decisions in the past. But we can commit ourselves to upholding those traditional values from this point onward.

Be thankful for your family. And uphold those values which will make it strong.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.