Giving thanks, every day

Things I am thankful for today:

 

Good health

The ability to donate blood (most of the time) www.lifeshare.cc

A good job with a supportive supervisor, a great staff and flexible hours

Hector, the student I mentor in Cleveland

Monopoly, his favorite game (and Robert’s at the center where I work)

Greater Cleveland Volunteers http://www.greaterclevelandvolunteers.org/

The American Red Cross www.redcross.org

Interstate 90 (I spend a lot of time on it)

Interstate 480 (a great connector to places I go)

Good friends, locally and across the country

My wife

Our three sons

My parents, who are still doing well in their 80s

My sister

Good health throughout my family

 

Jesus Christ

The Bible

Discernment

Insight

Silence

Quiet time nearly every morning for decades

Pittsburgh-based Summers Best Two Weeks, a summer camp where I gave my life to Christ in 1975 www.sb2w.org/

 

Our two cats

Our previous cat, Paws

Coffee in the morning

The ability to write

The ability to edit, including my own copy

LinkedIn www.linkedin.com

Facebook www.facebook.com

The Christian Blog Collection

An Internet hearts game https://cardgames.io/hearts/

A good book (I’m reading Hamilton, which the Broadway musical is based on)

Re-connecting with high school classmates

Seeing some classmates at a picnic last summer for the first time in more than 35 years

 

Food on the table, something I never take for granted

A place to call home

Money in my wallet

My 401(k), future pension (I hope), future Social Security (I expect), as secure a financial future as I could wish for

Ability to tithe

Ability to be financially generous at times

Going out to dinner with my wife every Sunday after church

 

Time to walk/jog once or twice a week

Jogging in a warm spring or summer rain

Working up a good sweat

Colorful fall leaves

Cold winter air on my face

Good balance on an icy bridge

Buds on trees in the spring

Deer

Birds overhead

Occasional turkeys on the property at work

 

The lawn mower we bought in 1988 that still runs

The 21-year-old car I drive

The Chevette I drove for 18 years

My work van, which has 193,000 miles on it

A sweater my grandmother made for me that I still occasionally wear in winter. Grandma died in 1980

Our nearly 33-year marriage

July 24, 1975: The day I gave my life to Jesus

The red Schwinn bicycle I rode as a child (I still have it) www.schwinnbikes.com/

An indestructible hand-crank pencil sharpener that sits on my bedside table

My Indian Guides vest (it’s a tight fit, but I can still put it on, sort of)

Our card table, which was our first dining room table back in the day

 

Michigan State University https://msu.edu/

Classes that challenged me to think

The Magic Johnson-led basketball team that won the NCAA championship my freshman year

The beauty of the campus

University Reformed Church, where I met and married my wife https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/

Bailey Hall, the dorm where I lived all four years at MSU

 

Ames United Methodist Church, where we raised our children http://ameschurch.org/

The Ames softball team

Playing on that team with all three of my sons

The opportunity for my wife and I to both be leaders in that church

The youth directors who taught our sons so much

Sunday School classes

The 12-week membership class, which I helped lead for awhile

Small groups, one a couples group and the other a men’s group

A summer Bible study or two

Monday night basketball in the church gym

The structure and accountability of the United Methodist Church http://www.umc.org/

The chance to serve on a couple of statewide committees through the church

 

The Saginaw County CROP Hunger Walk, which continues to raise thousands of dollars to feed hungry people locally and worldwide https://www.crophungerwalk.org/saginawmi

Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings

The annual Thanksgiving morning Ultimate game

Playing Ultimate in 8 inches of virgin snow

Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner (no matter how the Lions did)

 

The Saginaw News, where I worked for 24 years http://www.mlive.com/saginaw/#/0

Accountability, with respect

Proofreading to keep mistakes out of the newspaper

Participating with News employees in the federal summer lunch program, thanks to the leadership of one of the reporters

A clear mind on deadline

 

The beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula http://www.michigan.org/hot-spots/upper-peninsula

Snowplows in winter to keep the roads clear

An engine heater in my Chevette on sub-zero January mornings

Pickford, my first home after college http://www.hsmichigan.org/pickford/

The Wallis family for frequently inviting this single guy over for Sunday dinner

Learning to drive in a region with no traffic lights and only a few blinker lights

 

Friends everywhere I’ve lived

Brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere I’ve lived

Wonderful co-workers at all of my jobs

Opportunities to volunteer in the communities where I’ve lived

The future hope of Heaven https://www.gotquestions.org/heaven-like.html

 

I could update this list every day. What are you thankful for today?

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A psalm of my life

Praise You, O God,

For your goodness though all the Earth.

Your steadfast love has endured through all generations

From the beginning of time until now.

Your love, as you promised,

Will continue to the end of time.

 

I’ve seen your glory

And felt your love

From the day of my birth.

You blessed me with a strong family,

A prosperous home

With parents who gave and a sister who cared.

Mom and Dad continue strong,

57 years of marriage and counting.

 

You touched me at camp as a teenager,

Revealing yourself in a special way

Through the unconditional love of counselors and, especially, other campers.

You entered my heart as Savior

And I’ve been learning ever since what it means to call you Lord.

 

At college I learned the ways of the world;

You opened my eyes to new ideas and thoughts.

You introduced me to my future spouse there,

And other friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

 

Off to the working world you sent me,

Young and naïve, but willing to learn.

You revealed my passion,

Then led me to a job where I could use it

For more than two decades.

 

We raised a family, three boys,

Our pride and joys.

Good health you blessed us all with,

A home of our own

Where we could lead a strong family.

 

You gave us servant’s hearts

Through our church and community,

Where we could love others

And praise you.

 

O Lord, why did it not last?

We could have served you forever there.

But life was too easy, was it not?

You had lessons to teach us,

New people to meet,

New opportunities to pursue.

 

Out-of-state moves, two of them, Lord.

I have no home on this Earth.

Like your son, I wander,

Seeking to do your will

Wherever you take me.
You lead us to brothers and sisters

Wherever we land,

Those who love you, Father,

Whom we can worship with side by side.

 

We see you everywhere.

Even in the struggles, Lord,

And those are many.

If all is sunshine, where is the rainbow?

 

But Adam and Eve knew good, and only good.

It wasn’t enough for them.

The serpent tricked them.

Their gain? They learned evil.

 

I know evil too, Lord, see it firsthand every day.

It’s easy to see it in your people, God,

But I see evil in my own heart as well.

I cannot place blame

Because I am not innocent.

 

In the midst of this you came to Earth, Lord:

To offer a return path to goodness,

A road to your heart.

I am not a worthy traveler, Father,

And yet you invite me along.

Who am I that you hold my hand?

 

I stumble and fall, bruise my knees, every day.

My hands are bloodied with sin.

And yet you wipe them clean

With your own blood.

 

I still seek my place on this Earth, Lord,

Still pursue you.

On Sundays and Wednesdays, yes,

In gatherings of your people,

I find rest in you.

 

But I seek more, Father,

Because you want me to seek more.

Are you among the tax collectors and sinners?

That’s where you live most days, Jesus.

Outside the walls of the church,

Where the people who need you reside.

 

You send me there, Lord, so that’s where I go.

Good health you’ve blessed me with

So I’ll use it for your glory.

I’ll serve you in the morning when I wake up

And find ways to serve throughout the day.

Not because I’m anything special, Father,

But because you deserve it.

Thank you, Lord, for saving my sins,

Even my sins.

 

It’s easy to get pessimistic in this life, Lord,

Looking only at worldly pleasures

And worldly troubles

In my own life and in the news.

So much to complain about, isn’t there, Father,

And yet what do you say?

 

Rejoice always, and again I say, rejoice.

That’s what you say, Lord.

Can I do that? Is it possible?

It’s a choice, isn’t it, Lord,

I can see life through my eyes or through yours.

 

Your eyes are beautiful, Father.

You see the good in all people

All have sinned, and yet you desire mercy for each one of us.

You said that too, Father.

 

I’d rather sit at your judgment seat than in the defendant’s chair on Earth.

You know my deepest heart, Lord,

While man knows me only a little.

You’ve given me acting skills, Lord,

That I can hide behind.

I tell others what they want to hear, and no one questions me.

No one.

But you know me, Father. You know my secrets. I cannot hide them from you.

 

I fall before you, Father, a broken man,

Sinful, weak and impure.

Yet I carry on.

This life is a marathon, not a dash; your road is long,

Longer for some than others.

I’m ready to get off now, Father,

To fall into your arms.

If today is the day …

But if tomorrow comes, I will rise and serve you again.

Such as I am

Because of who you are.

Until you call me home, Lord,

I will rise and serve you again.

 

You give life meaning, Father;

Why else should I awake in the morning?

This day will pass,

But your steadfast love lives forever.

Even for this sinner,

Your steadfast love lives forever.

Praise you, Father.

It’s why I live.

2016 wasn’t all bad

There’s so much focus on what went wrong in 2016 – celebrities who died, the political landscape, escalating (so it seems) death and destruction in the Middle East, just for starters – I think we need to focus on what went right this year.

Speaking of sports …

Here in the Cleveland area, there’s a couple of easy success stories to begin this essay. The Cavaliers won their first NBA championship, ending a major sports drought of 52 years in this city since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. LeBron James is the star. His decision to return to Cleveland after four years in Miami sparked the championship.

In the fall, the Indians took the Chicago Cubs to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series before coming up short. Still, the Indians won the American League pennant with a group of young players who have us Indians fans excited for the future.

And for my Chicago-area friends: The Cubs ended more than a century of misery by winning their first World Series since 1908. Good things happen to those who wait. And wait. And wait …

Across the country …

The National Park Service turned 100 years old in August. There’s a good New Year’s resolution: Let’s get outside more.

Thanks to vaccinations, measles was eliminated from the Americas in 2016, and global malaria deaths have dropped 60 percent since 2000.

The United States had a successful summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Let us count them one by one …

Personally, it’s easy to be pessimistic, to think about what I don’t have instead of counting my blessings. So, let’s count a few.

  • I started a new job in January. As a driver for REM Ohio, I work with people who have “developmental disabilities,” adults who need assistance with their daily lives. It’s not an office job. I’m on the road a lot, picking them up at their homes and bringing them to our day program center, then taking them home late afternoon. It’s rewarding and fulfilling on many levels.
  • My health remains very good, something I hope never to take for granted. I walk/jog a couple of times a week. I donated blood several times this year (although I passed out twice, so I’m not sure I can continue – and those were the only sick days I took this year).
  • Because of my full-time job, I don’t volunteer as much as I’d like, but I find time to assist at American Red Cross blood drives on the occasional Saturday and with special projects through our church. I’ve been volunteering with Destination Imagination, an after-school creative problem-solving activity, for 10 years and will lead one of the activities in our region this winter.
  • My wife’s part-time job evolved into a full-time position this summer.
  • My mom celebrated her 80th birthday this fall. We took her and Dad to a show at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland and dinner afterward. Mom and Dad have been married 57 years.
  • I reconnected with some of my high school classmates in the Pittsburgh area at a picnic this summer. I hadn’t seen them since we graduated in 1978.
  • We are blessed with a wonderful landlord. We’ve been in this house three years. We eventually plan to buy our own, but we’re in a great situation right now.
  • Our three sons are healthy and have good jobs. We are blessed to see them often, including our middle son who moved to Denver in the spring. Closer to home, we’re grateful for our two cats, healthy and as affectionate as cats can be.
  • We live in the United States, where we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. We have money in the bank, and two dependable vehicles (even if one of them is 20 years old). So often we overlook such things. We shouldn’t.
  • Most of all, we have our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus gives life meaning.

I’m glad there’s something better than this earth when we die. Especially in 2016, I don’t see many “year in review” stories like I usually do. We aren’t thankful for much these days, especially how the year is ending. So, I look beyond 2016, beyond the day-to-day struggles of life, to a time when all the bad stuff will disappear and life will be perfect. Literally.

That day is coming. Possibly in 2017, possibly much later.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hassles of our lives, but there is a bigger picture.

In 2017 …

In 2017, I plan to focus more on things I can control.

So much of what we argue and complain about belongs to others: celebrity news, Washington politics (if they didn’t take such a big bite out of my paycheck, I’d ignore them completely), professional sports. How much influence do you and I have over those issues, really? That’s why we argue so vociferously without any resolution. There is no resolution. At least, not one that belongs to you and me.

So, what can I control?

How I relate to my family.

What I do with my time.

How I approach my job, and how well I do it.

What extracurricular stuff I do.

How I treat people, both friends and strangers.

The music I listen to, the TV shows I watch and the books I read.

How I treat my body – the food I eat, how much I exercise. How I respond to illness/injury should that happen.

The way I drive. The way I react to the way other people drive. (I nearly caused a collision yesterday, lest I think I’m a perfect driver. Lord, give me patience.)

Happy New Year. Hope it’s a special one for you.