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Giving thanks to Christ for many things

Psalm 118 invites us to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever." With this spirit of gratitude upon us and the challenge to give thanks to the Holy One, I'd like to give thanks to the fact that Christ has come to me in the hands, words, and love of so many important people in my life.

What better way to give thanks to God than to remember the very people who embody God's love? Perhaps as you read this, you too can remember how Christ has visited you through the special people in your life.

I am thankful that Christ first came to me in the midst of the love of my parents. They certainly show me God's steadfast love, but it is the love that they've showed others that I think has impacted my faith most profoundly.

My dad in particular is one who taught me inclusive love. It was not uncommon during my upbringing that dad would befriend so many diverse people and have them over for dinner or a fishing excursion regularly. It didn't matter if they had money, or whether they battled addiction, or were deadbeat dads. It didn't matter if they talked or looked funny or had nicknames like Pineapple or Puny.

Years ago when we lived in Florida, Dad hired a disabled person to help him with his TV repair business. The person had hearing impairments but was a gifted technician. No one hired him but he needed money to help his ailing mother. Dad provided work, and he also provided friendship. They went fishing together and often went out to lunch despite the fact that their communication was limited.

When I was young and naive I wrestled with this idea of having a dad who befriended everyone. I thought that you couldn't be cool if you hung out with such "uncool" people. I realized years later that Dad never went out of his way to befriend people others turned away; it just came naturally to him.

Who knew he was shaping my faith for a future life of ministry? In college and high school, I too found myself gravitating to those people that my peers labelled freaks and geeks. They were my friends, and God surprised me that they actually ministered to me more than I to them more often than not.

Another person who has been Christ for me is someone many Rockdale citizens know: Barbara McCarthy. She has served in so many public servant roles I can't recall them all here, and she has such significant networks and friendships in the county that I can't even assume that I know her better than others do.

What strikes me about Barbara, however, is that she's one of the most unassuming and nicest people I know. When she talks to me -- or anyone for that matter -- she looks you in the eye and takes her time with you. People are important to her not because she sees people as agents for her personal gain, but because her heart is just that big.

Barbara and her husband, Fox, once hosted my family and me at their northern Georgia cabin one weekend. I thought that, surely, if I stayed with this family overnight, I would possibly see a different side to Barbara. Maybe she's grouchy or something, and we just don't see it in her when in public.

Nope. She's the same in season and out. She is, as her husband says, an angel in disguise.

I find that there are a lot of folks like Mom, Dad, and Barbara. There are people who befriend the marginalized or simply make friends because they are friendly by nature; but, when it comes to my parents and the McCarthys, I'd like to give thanks to them specifically this season.

I'm sure that you can think of the heroes of faith in your life this week. As they surface in your thoughts, don't forget to give them thanks and praise God "for His steadfast love" provided to us through so many people.

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.