Our Missions Team from Parkway Fellowship headed out to the Third Ward, prepared to share a meal and a message of thanksgiving with those in greater need than us. However, what we found was that many of them were already living in gratitude. One man named John talked to me for quite some time about thankfulness. He said that when he sees a man with a wheelchair, he gives thanks to God for his legs. He talked about all of the illnesses that he has seen people battle and he is thankful that he hasn’t had to fight in those same ways. Then he said something that I thought was really profound. He said, “If I can look up, I can get up.” This reminded me of some difficult times in my life where I needed to count my blessings, literally writing them down one by one. When I committed to doing this each day, it forced me to see where God was working in my life, in the big things and in the small things.
Scripture is replete with God’s many blessings from Genesis to Revelation, and God’s people are called to remember and to give thanksgiving, or eucharistia. Colossians 3:16-17 teaches, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Professor Christine Pohl writes, “In scripture, remembering falsely or forgetting entirely is often associated with an absence of gratitude. One of the saddest judgments passed on people in Scripture is that they didn’t remember God’s steadfast love” (Pohl 2012). Ingratitude, or lack of thankfulness can be dangerous and create a culture of complaint that infects the heart and spreads contagiously. Perhaps this is why testimony, remembering God’s loving-kindness is so important. If ingratitude is a disease, perhaps testimony is an inoculation.
I am testifying to God’s steadfast love and am thankful for all that God provided in order for us to go to the Third Ward on Saturday. I am thankful for the 100 pies that were donated by members of the church. I am thankful for the people who cooked 40 turkeys, and I am thankful for Thomas Triolo who led the cooking and food logistics of this initiative. In addition, he cooked 22 pans of stuffing, cut up 36 hams, fried 20 turkeys, and ran the pits on Saturday. I am thankful for Sarah Jacobson who organized all of our volunteers and made sure that they knew where to be and when, and also for Chesley Combs who collected and organized all the pies for us. I am thankful for Sam Moreno who brought his whole baseball team out to work, because he recognizes the value in teaching these boys more than the game. I am thankful for Donnie Gothard who let us use his pit, and to the 60 volunteers who came to serve.
It was a beautiful fall day in downtown Houston where neighbors sat side by side and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast. Some of them were good folk who grew up in the neighborhood, and some of them were people trying to survive and have questionable ways of making a living, but we all sat together under the same tent and counted our blessings.