A small plaque is posted on the back of the majestic Wilson Gates on the Howard Payne University campus in Brownwood, Texas. Perhaps few have actually stopped to read it, but the words from Psalm 100 state a challenge to all who come to the campus.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him; bless His name.”
Students in the class of 2005 experienced one of the oldest traditions of the university, “Chime Out.” It is held on the lawn and the seniors symbolically pass the responsibility of the university to the underclassmen. As the ceremony concludes, the graduates pass through the Wilson Gates into the community, the underclassmen turn back into the campus, and the gates are closed once more.
The gates invite thoughts of reflection, gratitude, anticipation and hope.
The symbol of the graduates passing though the gates into the community and the underclassmen returning to the campus is simple, but very meaningful. Those yet to graduate have work still to do at the school, but those receiving their diplomas have new work to do that includes a change of location and vocation. All experiences are part of the journey. It isn’t that one part is “all good” and another “all bad,” but all do offer challenges and require the mercy, grace and wisdom of God.
We each pass through gates – perhaps at times of trouble, or change, or grand possibilities. We are invited to give thanks, for God is there and He is in all things. For that we can give thanks.
The expressions of thanks may be said:
* through tears of gratitude or regret
* with songs of joy or sadness
* from a heart of hope or despair
* at times of beginnings or endings
We will pass through gates, many gates – but may they cause us to bless His name. For no matter where we go or what we may experience – God is with us and has gone before to make all things work together for our good.
One of the strengths for believers is that they do not travel alone. Many have gone before and have left markers along the way. And many others walk along the road with us, yet there are those that follow the trails we are making.
Take a moment and reflect on the following exercise. Perhaps, take time to share in your First Place group some insights you have gained through this reflection.
* List one person from your past who has encouraged you.
* What word, event or attitude did they give you that made a difference in your life.
* List one person who is currently your fellow traveler – who keeps you on the path and cheers you on to better places
* What do they do that is most helpful for you at this point of the journey?
* Who is one person that you know depends on you to help them find the way? [perhaps a child, new believer, friend]
* What quality do you desire for them to see in you that will make their journey one that is blessed?
There are many gates [opportunities/experiences] in our life travels; they all offer opportunities, but the greatest is the possibility that God will be honored and we will praise him along the way.
Dr. Bill Heston
Howard Payne University
Dr. William Heston was minister of pastoral care at Houston’s First Baptist Church; clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and a marriage therapist licensed by the state of Texas. He has also led seminars at First Place Conferences.