I love this time of year when our nation pauses and contemplates how grateful we are for God’s many blessings. And following Thanksgiving, the Christmas season approaches when we consider God’s greatest gift to humanity in His son, Jesus.
I have been so blessed in my life that sometimes I forget about those that have traveled a much different road. This contrast was vividly evident as I accompanied Dr. Bill Kilgore, one of our religion faculty members, and about a dozen students to the Fort Worth Presbyterian Night Shelter this past weekend. As we neared the shelter, more and more homeless people were standing along the streets. We slowed and allowed several of them with bundles of their total possessions to cross the street in front of us. We pulled into the parking area, signed in, and began working with the kitchen staff to prepare and serve the evening meal. I talked with a gentleman who had experienced jail time for manufacturing methamphetamine; he had now been clean for five years and did not want anything to do with drugs anymore. He was so thankful for the shelter that was giving him a chance to get back on his feet. Many of the people who came through line were very grateful for our students who served and provided them food. I was moved by their thanksgiving spirit even though they had very few earthly possessions. I praise God for the Presbyterian Night Shelter and the wonderful ministry they do on a daily basis. As Christians, we are called to be like Jesus, to be helpful to those who are in need.
On campus this year, we have had many wonderful people inspire our students about being selfless and giving back to their communities. Jennifer Woods shared the Harvest House’s vision to help families break the cycle of hopelessness by providing resources that assist in restoring their dignity and independence. Tammy King described The Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center and its mission to provide each child who has suffered abuse with justice, hope and health. Lisa Schwarz from Crazy8 Ministries spoke of their purpose to come alongside families in their broken circumstances, offering them a second chance at life by providing for them body, soul and spirit. Mary Easton shared her testimony of volunteering this past year with the Johnson County Hunger Coalition in its formative stages. Gloria Jones introduced us to the work of Operation Blessing of Johnson County to keep their pantry shelves stocked for those needing food and basic living items. Pam Masters motivated our students with stories of her 20 years+ of volunteerism.
It has been our privilege to partner on special projects with some of these organizations recently, and our hope is to provide future connections with these and other charities, presenting more opportunities for our students to serve their community. These and other like organizations need our volunteer time and money to help fulfill their mission of service to those in need.
As I experienced at the Presbyterian Night Shelter, regardless of the difficulty of our journeys, we can always have a thankful spirit and be grateful to God for His blessings. Even amid the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation on October 3, 1863, stating, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” I note in Lincoln’s proclamation that thanksgiving and praise was directed not toward our earthly possessions, but was directed to the God of Heaven.
I love the words to the doxology in many Christian hymnals,
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
I pray that this Christmas season will be a special time for you and your family, and you will find a quiet moment to pause and give thanks for God’s many blessings.
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.