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Many of us will spend this week gathering with family and friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday. We will gather around a table and eat a delicious meal of turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, green beans, cranberry salad, rolls, and lots of various kinds of pie (among other tasty dishes). We’ll share stories from the past and catch up on new adventures and happenings. As we enter this time, I would like to share just some of the things I am thankful for.

I am thankful that God doesn’t treat me as I deserve, but loves me beyond my wildest imaginations. I have no reason to be anything but dead. Far too often I allow my own desires to crowd out the desires of God in my life. Often I pick and choose which areas of discipleship to follow, and while I boldly follow God in those areas of passion, I quietly find excuses to not follow when discipleship gets hard. Even though I deserve for God to give up on me and leave me to my own desires, God continues to love and care for me as a parent cares for a child. Because of God’s mercy and love, God forgives me and raises me to life even when I am dead in my trespasses and sins. I am thankful, that God freely welcomes me to dine at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

I am thankful to be apart of a gracious and caring church community. There are plenty of things wrong with the church today. As a minister, I often see the worst of our moments. But I can also say that there is far more good than bad. The church is not perfect, but I have been privileged to serve three separate congregations in my life and seen some of the most giving and compassionate people I’ve ever met. I’ve personally experienced that grace through money to pay my children’s medical bills to individuals offering me forgiveness and a second chance when I’ve let my flesh control my actions and I’ve regretted my response. I’ve also seen it shared with those in need, through Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, Christmas presents for community children, food boxes for the elderly, porches being built for those who are handicapped, and many other gracious endeavors. The church has taught me to think outside of myself and learn to love the neighbor, the stranger, and the foreigner in my midst. Even today, when there are some who are fearful of letting refugees in, I have been encouraged by voices in the church crying out, sometimes against their own brothers and sisters, to accept the alien and foreigner into their midst in the name of Jesus.

I am thankful for the friendships of some special men (I’ll spare you from naming them here) who through the years have seen both the good and bad of me and have loved me and challenged me in my life as a husband, father, and child of God. You have allowed me to vent in anger, allowed me to cry many tears, and allowed me to laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in my life. Even when many miles separate us, I know that your friendship and support are only a phone call or text away. You have made me a better person and I could not imagine trying to live life without you. We’re men, so we don’t say it enough, but I value you so much.

I’m thankful for my family. All families have a little crazy in them and mine is no different. Yet while I could not choose you, I am grateful that God has blessed me with you. You have supported me and loved me in a multitude of ways and I am a better person because of it. I am especially thankful for my four favorite people. It is an honor to love and serve you as a husband and daddy. You bring my life immeasurable amounts of joy, and I am so grateful for each of you. I am by no means perfect, not even close, but I am so thankful that God allows me to love you and serve you as Christ loves and serves the church. My hope is that through my actions I might somehow make it easier for you to be in relationship with and love our Father in Heaven.

The list could go on, I live a very rich and abundant life. God has been gracious to me in many ways. I am thankful for all that God has done, and I try to live with that spirit everyday, giving to others out of my overflow.