“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (New International Version 1984, 2 Corinthians 9:11-12).
Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford, proclaimed that November 29, 1623, (their third year on the new continent) serve as a day for “render[ing] thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”
And so, from the earliest days of what eventually became the United States of America, our founders recognized the importance of a spirit of gratitude and the giving of thanks to the One to whom it was due.
Governor Bradford would not recognize modern-day America and would be heartbroken that though the letter of his thanksgiving proclamation has survived for almost four hundred years, the spirit of thanksgiving is difficult to find.
It can be discouraging to see and hear today’s news. COVID-19 Pandemic, jobs/schools/jails/churches shut down, economic recession, racial unrest and ice storm/loss of electricity. It seems that our days are darker and more difficult than ever before. However, from the perspective of past financial collapses, pandemics and times of war, today is not nearly as dark as our nation has faced before.
On October 3, 1863, in the midst of a horrible civil war that not only divided our nation, but turned brother against brother and split families apart, President Abraham Lincoln renewed the call for national thanksgiving with a prayer for “the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
President Lincoln’s thanksgiving prayer resonates with our OJPM ministry and me. It reflects the challenge faced by our chaplains and volunteers that long to reach into the divided and broken environment of county jails to bring reconciliation and healing.
It does little good to point fingers at others and decry the lack of gratitude in general and thanksgiving to God in particular in our society. But I do know one heart that I can change this Thanksgiving season. Mine! And maybe you can change yours.
Here are five things that I am going to do this Thanksgiving:
- Make a list of all the blessings that God has given to me
- Go the second mile to tell others how thankful I am for them (notes, emails, phone calls, personal visits)
- Give financially over and above what I usually give to my church and OJPM
- Engage others in a conversation about Thanksgiving and how I am grateful for God’s blessings
- Encourage my family to have a special time of giving thanks at our holiday gathering
Diana Cummins, OJPM office administrator, and I pray regularly for our volunteers, the inmates and the detention staff. We regularly thank the Lord for the sacrifice and service of our volunteers. We also thank the Lord for the open doors of service that He has created and the financial support that we receive to keep this ministry operating.
Let me reiterate to our OJPM volunteers and friends the Apostle Paul’s words; the “service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
There is much to be thankful for! Do not be a turkey; make the thanking of God for His many blessings the centerpiece of your holiday this month.
Unleashing the captives,