It’s that time of year where we reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for. Maybe you’ll go around the table soon and list off a few things you’re grateful for. Here’s my list for 2017:
Community — I’ve been fortunate to live in several communities, and they’ve all been great experiences. The community I presently live in absorbed a significant blow from mother nature this summer. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I watched as my immediate community (Katy, Texas and Houston, Texas) rallied to help one another. I also watched as other communities came to our aid. Friends from all over the country donated funds, came to town to help work, and sent kind words of encouragement and support. All this makes me extra grateful for my community this year.
Family — When I look at my wife and kids, and actually slow down long enough to take it all in, I recognize what a blessing it is to be surrounded by three people that are all in with me in this life. We fuss and fight and drive each other bonkers sometimes, but we are in it to win it. My wife and I have been married nearly fifteen years now. Our daughter is twelve, and our boy is nine, and we are blessed out the ears with health and provision and love for one another. I am so thankful for my family. And our beagle isn’t bad, either.
Family — I know, I know, I already said that. But I have a big family. And every single day, something happens where I realize just how fortunate I was to be raised by Jim and Cathy Benton. My parents are incredible people, underrated in many ways. Brilliant, God-fearing, hard-working, selfless people. Some would say they’re in the autumn of their lives. If that’s true, they’re eating up all fall has to offer on their Harley Davidson motorcycle and doing their part to keep Cracker Barrells along I-44 in business. But in the spring and summer of their life, they raised my sister and me (and four other older kids), and they did it with class. I am grateful for them now more than ever.
Church — My definition of church has changed this year. I stopped working for one, started attending a different one, and questioned a lot of things about the church I’d always just taken as fact. As it turns out, this has led to a deeper, more meaningful view of church. I have brothers and sisters in dozens of countries that I know personally who have helped to widen and shape that view. I have friends in various denominations and cultural expressions that have helped do the same. I’ve realized that my flavor of “church” is a good flavor, but it’s not the only flavor. The cry of some of my tradition’s forefathers has never rang more true: “We’re not the only Christians, but we’re Christians only.” I’m thankful for the beautiful array of faithfulness I get to be a part of in this thing we call “the Church.”
Jesus — He always tops the list, and that’s not changing any time soon. It’s hard for me to describe my relationship with Jesus. I suppose it’s a lot like other relationships I have. Sometimes I don’t like Him. I’m confident I don’t deserve Him. I don’t know what I’d do without Him. I feel incredibly close to Him most of the time, but sometimes He’s so hard to understand it’s like He’s slipping right through my fingertips. Songwriter Rich Mullins said he was “just plain hard to get,” and that resonates with me. Still, I’m holding on to Him as best I can. Usually, that results in realizing that He’s actually holding onto me. Of all the things I’m grateful for, I think I’m most grateful for that.