Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.
In honor of Thanksgiving, here’s a list of ten things I’m thankful for. It's been a good year.
1. The 9-2 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see this one coming. I told everyone who would listen in early October that we were the WORST 5-0 team in the history of college football. Now I’m wondering why on earth we’re not 10-1 or even 11-0. I told our Wednesday night Bible study group that nobody knows the limitations of GT football better than a GT fan, so I’m prepared for disappointment on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But for now, I can be thankful.
2. A Growing Faith
As we seek to become more perfect in our faiths, our paths rarely take straight lines. Most often the journey of faith is filled with twists and turns, peaks and valleys, exasperating dry spots and thrilling periods of inspiration and discovery. This year my journey has been more inspiration than exasperation, and for that I am thankful.
3. A New Community
Canton, GA is a fantastic place to live. I’m sure there are some downsides, but I haven’t seen many of them yet. Everything is convenient. People are nice. We rarely think of something we want or need and discover that Canton doesn’t offer it. Last weekend I went to the bank, stopped by the dry cleaners, filled the car up with gas, got my oil changed, went by the hardware store, and picked up a few things at Publix all in about an hour. You can barely make it out of your neighborhood in Atlanta in that amount of time. So I’ll say it again. Canton, GA is a fantastic place to live!
4. Two Caring Churches
Julie and I have been blessed to serve and worship with two awesome churches this year. When we left Wieuca in Atlanta, we left a church that we had grown to love like family, and we were overwhelmed by the expressions of love and support and encouragement as we said our goodbyes in August. We never dreamed that it would be possible to be as warmly received at our new church in Canton. But it was possible, and we were. Like Wieuca, Heritage has overwhelmed us with love.
Some people say grace is being overwhelmed by so much love that you know there’s no possible way you could have earned it or deserved it. If that’s your definition of grace, Julie and I have had one heckuva grace-filled year.
5. A Loving Wife
Julie and I are in our third year of marriage, and somehow—miracle of miracles—I think she still loves me! When Julie and I first met I was a political science major. I think she thought she was building a relationship with a future lawyer. I don’t know what a lawyer’s wife does, but Julie’s been a camp chaperone, a nursery worker, a sound technician, a cook, an event planner, a Bible study host and a whole lot more--all while excelling as a corporate accountant. And this year she’s managed to share my level of anticipation and excitement as we’ve transitioned from one church to another and from one home to another.
Sometimes, when inexplicably good opportunities just seem to fall into my lap, Julie tells me that I live a charmed life. She’s right. And if there’s ever been proof that what she says is true, she’s it.
6. A Supportive Family
God has blessed me with a family I can count on. They love me unconditionally. My parents and my brother have provided for my every need. They are always there to encourage and support me. They overlook my flaws and celebrate my strengths. God never made a family more perfect for me than the one he gave me. What a blessing.
7. Good Friends
This year I’ve been lucky enough to have several opportunities to reconnect with friends from every stage of my life. I’m not very good at keeping in touch with people, but I can’t tell you how rewarding—and comforting—it is to know that there are people out there who care about what I’m doing and how I’m doing, even if it’s been months or even years since we’ve talked. Few things are as valuable as a good friend.
8. Good Books
I have three favorite books. Every so often I re-read them. This fall I read all three back to back, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
You can learn a lot about people just by knowing what their favorite books are, so know that I feel as if I’m baring a piece of my soul when I tell you that my three favorite books are (in no particular order) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, and The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. If nothing else, now you know that I’m a hopeless romantic.
9. Another Good Year
Every day is a gift from God. 365 good days are an embarrassment of riches. So many people have faced so many challenges this year that I have not had to face. When I think about those who have serious health challenges, or those who have lost loved ones, or those who are facing difficult financial circumstances, hunger, loneliness, addiction, depression, you name it, I almost feel guilty to have been so richly blessed this year. And I do feel guilty to have not done more to ease the suffering of those in need. God has been good to me again this year.
10. Meaningful Work
Church ministry isn't always easy. There are days when I wonder why I didn't just stick with my dream of becoming the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves—and B.J.Upton makes me think I might still have a chance! But God has blessed me with work that is as rewarding as it can be challenging sometimes.
In these early years of ministry I have been blessed by congregations who have given me both meaningful opportunities to serve and the grace to let me learn from my mistakes. So every day I challenge myself to be a better minister than I was the day before. And some days I succeed. On those days, I wouldn't trade this profession for anything in the world.
The last job I had before taking my first professional ministry position was as a loader in a warehouse. I would spend 8-12 hours a day loading household appliances onto tractor-trailers. So whenever someone asks me how my day’s been, or what it’s like being a minister, I think to myself, “Well, I haven’t had to pick up any refrigerators today!”
God is good. Happy Thanksgiving.