On the one hand….on the other hand: Giving Thanks as a Daily Discipline

On the one hand, I have five fingers. Thankfully, on the other hand, I have five as well. I take them for granted. But honestly, I depend on those fingers every day—for flossing, tying my shoes, typing on my laptop, texting, playing the bagpipes, or playing finger games with my daughter.

As we approach thanksgiving 2008, there are five things I am especially thankful for.

  1. Let’s start with technology. I just got a new computer. What a convenience tool. The first books I wrote were written on a manual typewriter. When I was a student at Oxford we wrote out our essays longhand, which is the way they’ve been doing it for centuries. So even the basic program of the most recent Microsoft Word is extraordinary. Not to mention the joy of  Facebook, blogging, itunes.   What a blessing!
  2. Countless daily conveniences. I am thinking really basic—like running water, and police protection.   Christina and I both went on separate trips to Africa this year. It was her first trip. She went to a very remote part of Uganda.  I went to Ghana—(my third trip to Africa). Some days there was no water for a shower. If there was water it was cold.  So I thank God every time I step into a shower at home.   While travelling from Cape Coast to Accra, we saw a thief trying to escape a mob that was chasing him. The mob took matters into their own hand and stoned the man to death! When I asked “where are the police?” I was told that to get protection you have to bribe them. Humm.
  3. Mentoring. It has been a joy to mentor young men and future pastors this year. We have a round table discussion each week at our church. They are so gifted, but love a place to come and talk about the issues of life and ministry. On the other end of the spectrum, I have been working on a book with my 84 year old dad, who has mentored me. The provisional title is “How to Finish the Christian Life.” We’ve been having conversations about end of life issues—transitions, retirement, finishing well, dying well, heaven.  What a privilege!
  4. 25 Years of Marriage. Christina and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in September. We met at a bus stop at Heathrow airport in London! Twenty-five years, four children, and two churches later, we thank God for orchestrating our meeting and blessing us with a long companionship and a deeper love.
  5. The Gospel. The high light of my year was rediscovering the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet again!  Through personal study in Galatians, and preaching through Romans, I became aware that I have not outgrown the gospel. I desperately need the righteousness that Christ provides in the gospel, and revel in his grace. The gospel is, as Tim Keller notes, not the ABC of the Christian faith, but the A-Z.

In our home on Thanksgiving Day, we revive an old New England Tradition, placing five kernels of corn at each place setting. Each person has to give thanks for five things during the dinner. It pumps some thanks giving into our Thanksgiving.  

I also started a new discipline this year.  At night, after lights are out and my head hits the pillow, the last thing I do is try to thank God for five blessings of the day. Why five? Because I have five fingers on the one hand.   It’s easy to remember and a great way to end the day. And in the morning, when I go for a walk on the Highline Canal Trail, or drive to work, I try to praise him for five blessings of the new day.  Why five?  Because I have five fingers on the other hand. This is how giving thanks has become more than an occasional affair, but a wonderful daily discipline.

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