Yesterday, I was reminded to be thankful.
During worship yesterday, our church family participated in “Mission Thanksgiving”, an effort to provide a Thanksgiving blessing to some impoverished families in our community. The Mayfair family brought in enough canned goods to supply Thanksgiving dinner for nearly 400 families in the New Hope area. In addition, we raised $20,000 to purchase turkeys and Bibles to distribute to these same families. And all of this for the glory of our great God. I am proud to be a part of such a compassionate, generous, loving church family, a group of believers who always respond to the needs of others. For 60 years, this church family has been focused on doing the right thing in these circumstances. And for that, I’m thankful.
This morning, another reminder to be thankful…
At 8:00 this morning, our ministry staff and a group of volunteers loaded up all these Bibles and bags of canned goods and took them to New Hope Elementary School. One of our humble servants, Wilson Mann, met us at church in a New Hope school bus, the same bus he drives every morning and afternoon. Wilson knows firsthand the poverty that runs rampant in New Hope; he sees it up close every day. We loaded these “bags of blessings” onto the school bus and drove the 16 miles from our campus to the school. Our team of servants distributed these tokens of grace discreetly, mindful of the dignity of these families in need. Along the way, we heard gut-wrenching stories of students who only eat when school is in session; we heard stories of abuse, stories of neglect, stories of young boys and girls whose lives are filled with nightmarish horrors that I dare not record here. We were shocked and appalled to find such circumstances just a few miles from our church building. My prayer is that the bags we distributed — green beans & Bibles & turkeys — can in some small way bear witness to the goodness of God in the lives of these children, lives that are drenched in so much sorrow and negligence and perversity. As we loaded up to leave, I was reminded to be thankful for the good family I was raised in and the material provisions I have always enjoyed. Family has always been a safe haven for me. But for many of these children, that’s just not the case. This morning I was reminded that I have much to be thankful for.
And this afternoon, a final reminder to be thankful…
Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to love and appreciate the Spears family. Luke and Carol Spears have been a part of our church family for well over 40 years. Luke worked with NASA here in Huntsville and his sweet wife Carol was a gifted writer and poet, a good friend, a horse lover, a devoted mother and grandmother, and a faithful wife. For the past several years, Luke has been standing watch over Carol — “Elizabeth”, as he calls her — as Alzheimer’s disease gradually invaded her body, requiring constant care and attention. In the final weeks of Carol’s life, I had the chance to pray with Luke and listen to him speak of his great love for his wife. For years, his primary concern has been for Carol’s well being; her death a few days ago has ushered in a new reality for Luke. This afternoon, Mr. Luke and I sat in rocking chairs in his living room and I listened as he spoke even more about the love of his life. There’s a palpable mixture of emotions moving through Mr. Luke’s words. In one sense, he is overjoyed that Carol has found her reward, that she is no longer in any pain, safe in the arms of her Creator. And yet — sometimes in the same breath — Luke acknowledges how much he misses her now, his sorrow still so acute, so raw that he simply has to pause to compose himself when he speaks of his beloved Elizabeth. And so this afternoon, I walked away thankful for the faithfulness of this good man. Mr. Luke, your faithful covenant love for Carol is a parable for us, an expression of the unrelenting faithful love of our covenant God. As a young husband and father, I can say I’m a better man for having known you and your precious wife.
All in all, my heart is welling up with gratitude and thanksgiving tonight. Blessed be the name of the Lord.