This past week, Jim challenged anyone who would take the bait to list the top five things we’re thankful for. I was too fragmented an busy to sit down and really think deeply enough about it, but I logged it in my mind as something to follow up on. So here you have my belated thanksgivings:

Top Five Things for which I’m thankful:

  1. That my house is a home, a refuge, a castle, and a ministry center. My house is an ongoing sitcom. It’s full of laughter, usually instigated by me or Adelyn. We’re not Lost, and we are all Survivors (no one’s getting kicked out). 24 hours a day – our little abode is a child-training center and a parent humbling seminar.
  2. Carolyn. I would marry her again. Today. She long ago figured out all my tricks of the trade and is still around. Cool. Very. She is the reason for number 1.
  3. Sam. Little did I know how much fun a growing son could be. My relationship with Sam is morphing into much more of a Dad than a “daddy.” Spending time together coaching his peewee football team, playing video games, fantasy football, and everything else is intoxicatingly surprising. Never a dull moment. I’m deeply conscious of this singular lifetime opportunity to help shape a son into a man.
  4. Adelyn. She is everything an ignorant dad expects from a daughter. Fru-fru to the core. Yet tough as iron. She’ll play dolls, or she’ll play football. You name it; she’s game. Into everything she does, she invests high innocence, contagious laughter, and a measure of goofiness.
  5. Jesus Christ. He is no mythic figure to me. No opiate of the masses. No Prince Charming. He’s a Lion who rages against injustice and evil. He’s a Lamb who gently beckons the repentant. His one solitary-communal life has completely revolutionized my own. He inhabits Creation and my life, fringing it with glory and tinting it with joy.

Four People I’m Thankful for…

As described by Jim, these are “five people that, over the past year, God has allowed you to begin a relationship with, OR have greatly grown your relationship with.”

  1. Mitch Bettis. My college roommate, former business partner and best friend. This year relocated to Arkadelphia from Colorado. He’s not just a hop, skip and jump from us. After nearly 15 years of physical separation, we’ve only just begun to discover again how meaningful and fun our friendship was/is.
  2. Alan Womack. Alan is the pastor at First Assembly of God Church here in Monticello. As a bivocational church planter who is also rather entrepreneurial and likes to push the envelope of accepted norms, it’s difficult to find church leaders in our area who don’t feel threatened and won’t ridicule my honest thoughts. Alan has been a sounding board and a great listener. He continues to offer help, counsel, and the “just-being-there” type of friendship.
  3. Andy White. I’ve not met Andy and had an “aw shucks moment” a while back when I stumbled across a comment he’d made on another blog which related that I was someone he’d like to meet. The feeling is mutual. Separated by an ocean, it won’t be easy to connect, but I hope to do so one day. His blog, Live a Big Life, has been a constant diet for me over the past year as I’ve begun blogging. He’s been a friend via email and occasional chat, a great web design counselor, and I just like the way he thinks.
  4. Ryan Morgan. He’ll be surprised to see his name on this list, I can assure you. Ryan was a UAM student when I served as a campus minister there. I had the joy and pleasure of watching God wrap His arms around a young athlete and transform him into a dynamic leader. Ryan exited my geographic influence a few years back to attend seminary. He and Misty moved back to Dumas to teach and coach. However, this year, Ryan came on board at Journey as our small groups pastor. It has been a humbling and rewarding relationship to interact with Ryan not as a mentor but as a peer.

(OK, so there are four, not five. Sue me. As I reflected on this, dozens more kept coming to mind, but these four have been uniquely used to offer encouragement and guidance in my life.)

Spiritual Mile Markers Folks

  1. Jackie Flake. Earlier this year, he asked me to come to Fort Smith to share with some of his students and spend a day. I had a great visit. Jackie and I served as campus ministers together, he at UAPB, me at UAM. As a dear friend who happens to be African-American, God has granted Jackie and me one of the most unique and inspiring friendships I’ve ever had. Jackie laughs with me and stabs me with his exhortation. He’s also a Mac user. Very spiritual.
  2. Neal Nelson. Also a cherished friend from campus ministry days, Neal is the one remaining amigo of the former Quatro Quintessents who is still serving Arkansas Baptist Collegiate Ministry, specifically at HSU. Neal and I meet infrequently at Fordyce, which is halfway between Monticello and Arkadelphia. Neal and I can talk, share, and dive deep into church talk and spirituality with no threat of being judged or competing.
  3. Ben Phillips. Can you guess? Ben served at SAU in campus ministry. He and I go back to seminary days. We first met while we both were working at Happy Hill Children’s Home. Yep. ‘Fraid so. We served in some of the same churches together while in seminary, and then when I came to Monticello in 1995, I promptly recommended him as the campus minister at SAU. In spite of my recommendation, he was selected anyway. Ben and his family are special friends of ours and have always been “there.” He has an amazing gift for administration and organization, and being around him is a breath of fresh air.
  4. John Piper. I’ve never met him, but have heard him speak at a few events, listened to many podcasts, and read many of his books. His book, Desiring God, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonistsingularly impacted by spiritual pilgrammage like none other. It resonated with my own fledgling theology and ministry philosophy at a time that I was beginning to think I was “the only one that thought that way.”
  5. Erwin McManus. Another author and another pastor. McManus is the primary teacher-leader at the Mosaic Church in California. Two books of his in the last couple of years have profoundly shaped and encouraged me:

Whew. That was a mammoth entry of thanksgiving. Many thanks to Jim for causing the introspection and reflection. How about you? What are you thankful for these days?

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