60 gifts I’m grateful for (Part 5)

41. Colleagues: I have great memories of all the people I worked with, from fast food (remember Burger Chef?) and construction (Mop-It & Co, and roofing), to summer camp, to teaching at universities and colleges, and my 24 years at Cedar Ridge. I wish I could have been a better boss to those who worked under me (that was certainly not my strong suit as a pastor), but I am so grateful for every person with whom I’ve been a colleague, including the amazing people I work with now through publishing, Convergence, and other organizations.
42. Cedar Ridge Community Church: The 24 years I enjoyed as part of this amazing community are so close to my heart. There are no words for my gratitude, especially to Bill & Shobha Duncan who were our companions through it all. I just learned I’ll be back for my book tour this fall, which will be such a joy.
43. Long-Term friends: Thinking of CRCC brings so many people to mind … too many to name, people we may only see occasionally now, but whenever we do, it’s like picking up right where we left off. You know who you are, and please know that I thank God for you. (Maybe next year I’ll list 61 people I’m most grateful for …)
44. Forgiveness: When I think of people I’ve known through the years, I have regrets for those whom I’ve hurt or disappointed, or been hurt or disappointed or hurt by. But then I think of how forgiveness and grace allow us to let those hurts and disappointments go, and I feel a wave of gratitude for each relationship that struggled because it gave us the opportunity to embody the grace of God to one another. What a gift! Thanks be to God.
45. Critics: My critics (I hope someone will forward this to them!) have meant a lot to me. They helped me see how insecure I was; they kept me on my toes; they challenged me to think deeper and work harder, and they forced me to develop courage and confidence that I never would have developed otherwise. As one of my favorite prayers says, critics are really friends in disguise. How can I not be grateful for them?
46. Literature and Poetry: I remember being a boy and reading “My Side of the Mountain” and “Robinson Crusoe.” They woke up my boyhood imagination. Then I remember in high school discovering e.e. cummings, and in college, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and William Wordsworth. In graduate school came my great literary mentor, Walker Percy. Literature, and especially poetry, have been such a big part of my 60 years of life. I am so grateful. Who would have guessed in those undergraduate Advanced Composition classes that I would become a writer?
47. The Bible: It dawned on me (I know, it’s obvious to many people) when I was a graduate student studying literature and critical theory that the Bible was, in fact, great literature. No literature has had the effect on me that the Bible has, especially Genesis, the Four Gospels, and Paul’s epistles. Matthew 5-7, John 12-17, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 13 have been the most important texts to shape these 60 years. Thanks be to God!
48. Social Media: I started blogging relatively early, and now, adding Facebook and Twitter and more, I realize that social media are so important to me. I’m especially grateful for all the bloggers and tweeters whom I follow, and all who follow me.
49. Writing (and readers): I started journaling in college and writing has been a medium of thinking and reflection for me, not just of communication. I love the whole process … asking questions, writing furiously fast first drafts, revising and editing, having the courage to dump thousands of words and start over, fine tuning. Of course, I am deeply grateful for all who read what I write!
50. My country. I’m grateful for the USA … for the beauty of the land, for the people, for our history with all its glory and horror (for inspiration and education). Watching the ugliness that is currently being displayed in our politics makes me all the more grateful for those times when we put our best foot forward. I’m deeply grateful for President Obama, who, I believe, will be shown by history to have been a far greater president (yoked to a far worse Congress) than most people currently realize. I’m sure I’d feel similar gratitude whatever country I was born in, but since I was born in the USA, that’s the country I’m especially grateful for.