Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Am Thankful For...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The temperature today here in Augusta, Georgia is predicted to be 81 degrees. As Charlie Brown would say, "Good grief!" But, they're saying it may rain tomorrow and that would indeed be cause for thanks here in what has become known in the media as "the drought-stricken South."

It is vital to the Christian life, I believe, to live with a persistent sense of gratitude. We should be grateful to God for the big blessings and for the small pleasures in life. With that in mind, I offer the following list of things for which I am grateful. They are in no particular order. I am fully aware that some are very serious and some are downright silly. But, as I said, I believe that we should be grateful for all things great and small.

1. I am thankful for water heaters. Having to take cold showers all the time would be awful. Of course, here in the drought-stricken South, we're grateful for water, period.

2. I am thankful for my children, Joshua and Sara. They are the apple of my eye as well as the source of much of my hair loss. They are wonderful and challenging. They are my legacy and I feel good about that.

3. I am thankful for books. I love books. Sometimes I try to reduce my collection and I discover that I have a hard time getting rid of even bad books. I particularly love books on Christian spirituality, books on Biblical Studies, classic novels by such folks as Twain, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Clancy, and Grisham, and the two books that have my name on them as author and editor. Those two are available for purchase to the right of this page. Go on--buy one and make me even more grateful!

4. I am thankful for baseball. I am particularly thankful for the Atlanta Braves, who have provided me with much helpful distraction over the last forty years. I am becoming ever more thankful for Little League, high school, and college players who play for the love of the game and not for a ridiculously big paycheck. I would be thankful for kids who play pick-up games in a yard or field somewhere--you know, the kind of game where you choose up sides and do that hand over hand thing with the bat to determine who will bat first and then play all day in hundred degree heat and are happy as a lark doing it--but I'm not sure that such kids or games exist. More's the pity.

5. I am thankful for vocation. I've been a preacher/pastor/teacher/writer for almost thirty years now. It is still a great honor to deal with the written Word on a daily basis in my professional life. I pray that I do honor to the living Word in the way that I do my work. It's hard work sometimes but it's always good and meaningful work.

6. I am thankful for my wife. Debra and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next June. She is to me a source of wonder because of the way that she embodies joy, peace, faith and love. When I try to tell her how wonderful she is she doesn't quite believe it. That just adds to the wonder.

7. I am thankful for the Georgia Bulldogs football team. I am a fan no matter what kind of season they have. This year has been a very exciting one. I would be even more thankful if they would get their graduation rate up.

8. I am thankful for my teachers who taught me well. At Gordon Grammar School: Mrs. Light, Mrs. Elliott, Mrs. Pitts, Mrs. Fambro, Mrs. Tenney, Mrs. Heinz, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Ruffin (she was married to my father's first cousin), Miss Vescey, and Coach Tenney. From Forsyth Road School/Lamar County High School: Mr. Myles, Mr. Julian, Mrs. Key, Mrs. Powers, Mr. Harvey, Mrs. Easton, Mrs. Byars, Mrs. Harris, Coach Wimberly, and Coach Pace. From Mercer University: Dr. Giddens, Dr. Otto, Dr. McManus, Mrs. Hennesy, Dr. Glover, Dr. Evans, Dr. Leitch, and Dr. Youman. From Southern Seminary: Dr. Kelley, Dr. Watts, Dr. Culpepper, Dr. Owens, Dr. Hinson, Dr. Leonard, and Dr. Moody. Most of the folks on that list have moved on in one way or another, be it to the next life, to the next job, or to retirement. They all helped mold and make me. I am grateful.

9. I am thankful to my home church, the Midway Baptist Church in Lamar County, Georgia. They taught me to love the Lord and that I was loved by the Lord. A greater gift can hardly be given. I probably wouldn't know five people if I walked in their sanctuary today, but way back when the folks there taught me a lot. It was also right entertaining sometimes.

10. I am thankful for Campbell's tomato soup. Now, I'd much rather have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup or of Brunswick Stew (for my non-Southern readers, I'll write an article explaining that delightful treat sometime), but, when it's cold outside, it's good to be able to throw together a nice lunch of tomato soup with a toasted pimento cheese sandwich. And I can fix it myself!

11. I am thankful for free and faithful Baptists. It's an overused term, I know, but it's still meaningful. In a day when being Baptist has come for too many to mean rigidity, conformity, and fundamentalism, I am grateful for those who still bear witness to a Christian faith that shows itself in compassion, liberty, and fervency--in short, that comes from the heart and that changes the life.

12. I am thankful for folks in other faith traditions who remind me that, thank God, it's not all up to us Baptists.

12. I am thankful for the basic food groups: fried catfish, steamed oysters, Buffalo wings, barbecued chicken, fried chicken, steak, barbecued pork, barbecued ribs, chocolate ice cream, German chocolate cake, pecan pie, coconut cake, sweet tea, and coffee.

13. I am thankful for anti-perspirant, whether it's worn by me or by others.

14. I am thankful for people who tell me that I'm great and for those who tell me the truth.

15. I am thankful for the family from which I came, especially for my father and mother, the late Champ and Sara Ruffin. They taught me to love the Lord, to love the church, to be kind and gracious, and to live in faith. I hope that I carry their best traits in me.

16. I am thankful for people who prepare things and fix things and clean up things; they keep the world running.

17. I am thankful for politicians who just tell the truth and who try to do what's best for the country or state or city and who do what's right regardless of the political implications for them. I wish I could think of one.

18. I am thankful for National Public Radio. They offer the most in-depth coverage of the stories that really matter that you will find anywhere. They come as close to being non-partisan as you're going to find in the media. They help pass the time when I'm on the road. Their on-air personalities aren't clowns.

19. I am thankful for neckties. When I stop and think about it, I really think that they're a total waste. I mean, why do men wear a long piece of cloth that serves no purpose around their necks? Still, I think they look nice and I like to wear them. I guess I'll never be an emergent church pastor.

20. I am thankful for this blog and for the people who read it. Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your list of small and large things for which you are grateful. It causes me to stop and think how grateful I am for you and your gift of "blogging". Thank you for your faithfulness to it.

Elder said...

I enjoyed your list of things for which you are thankful. It does make one think.