Keith Shorter is completing his year of service as president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, he and his wife, Lisa, recently shared insights about the season.
“I think the emphasis in Scripture is on what God has done for us, what He has provided — not just what we have,” Keith said. God’s faithfulness is not lost on the Shorters as they prepare for another Thanksgiving family gathering.
Fall is Lisa’s favorite time of the year. “I like Thanksgiving more than Christmas,” she said, “because we are so busy at Christmas, and the Christmas season has become so commercialized.”
Recently, as she was reading Psalm 116, the 12th verse caught her attention: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me.”
“That says it all for me,” she said. “That is my thought about life — what can I give to God for all His blessings to me?”
The Family Strengths Project has noted that healthy families have traditions — so-called “we always” things and activities — that they share. Five years ago, the Shorters started a new tradition for their Thanksgiving Day gathering. The idea came from a church member.
Each member of the family writes, on a white tablecloth, something they are thankful for during the previous 12 months. “One by one, throughout the day, everyone writes how they have been blessed or what they are thankful for,” Lisa said. Each year, the family is able to read current and past words of gratitude, which aids in building the uniqueness of their Thanksgiving Day.
This Thanksgiving, both Keith and Lisa are most thankful for their first granddaughter, 7-month-old Lillian “Lilly” Forrester. The family will gather for what Keith describes as “a pretty big spread.” He added, “We always have turkey, but the side dishes keep growing.”
Their first Thanksgiving as a married couple took place in Fort Worth, Texas, where Keith was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We were away from home, away from family (his family was in Tennessee, hers in Maryland), but it was a time of true thanksgiving,” he said.
Lisa noted she was nervous about cooking and suggested that she was not known as a good cook. “When we had Thanksgiving with Keith’s parents, family members brought the side dishes. They always asked me to bring the paper products.”
Their first Thanksgiving, however, was memorable. They had turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes, and she made a pecan pie because “Keith loves pecan pie.” In spite of Lisa’s lack of cooking experience, Keith said she prepared a meal that “was delicious — a feast.” The young couple “sat down together and made a list of all the things we were thankful for.”
Lisa added, “We were very grateful for all that God had done for us.”
Now, after 34 years of marriage, two grown daughters and a son, a son-in-law, and a new granddaughter, they continue to reflect on the many ways God has blessed them. “You look back and see how you have been blessed,” said Lisa. “I always reflect at Thanksgiving and look back through my prayer journal.”
In October, Keith returned from a mission trip to Southeast Asia, an experience that made him more keenly aware of his blessings from God. “I was in a city of 32 million people, and most of them have not had the opportunities I have been given,” he said. “I asked myself why was I born where I was. I thank God for the awareness that I have been blessed [by] being born into the family I was born into and having the privileges I have had.”
He attributes his life as a Christian and a minister to his godly parents. “My parents were my spiritual heroes. They taught me about Jesus. If you ask me or my two brothers why we are preachers, we all would say it is because of our parents. I am forever grateful to them,” he said.
Lisa’s dad passed away the first week of this year. Two months later, their granddaughter was born, and three months following her birth, their son, Jonathan, graduated from North Greenville University. Overall, Lisa says, it has been a “great year.”
Keith says his year as president of the SCBC has been “pretty amazing.” “I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and it has been one of the best years of my life.”
When his family gathers this Thanksgiving, he will be a former president of the convention, and that status will only add to the list of blessings they reflect upon this season.
“The heart of what we are doing at Thanksgiving is recognizing God’s blessings,” Keith said. “It is all about Psalm 107:1: ‘O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”