The Most Important Thing I Do For Thanksgiving

It is not turkey and pumpkin pie—as much as I love them both. It is not family or football. The most important thing I do for Thanksgiving each year is to write out what I am thankful for and give thanks!

After reflecting on the year, I make a short list. My kids make a short list. We share it together on Thanksgiving Day. We actually try to make Thanksgiving—thanks-giving!

Psalm 103.1,2 says “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

Writing them down is one way to not forget. It is a great thing to do near the end of the year, before you think about making goals for 2012.

So what am I thankful for in 2011. It’s not that my year has had no hardship or disappointment. So when you read my list, please don’t get that idea. It’s just that, through it all, you and I still have great reason to be thankful.

    1. The gospel-  I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is deeper and far more wonderful news than I ever imagined. It is centered on God’s startling action in Jesus’ incarnation, life, atoning death, resurrection, kingdom and future promises. It tells me of God’s amazing grace for me in Christ—of a righteousness revealed from heaven, of deep justifying love, of eternal life, of his justice and mercy, of his deep electing love, and of cosmic hope. With all the ups and downs of markets, election season, and world affairs, it is the best news on the planet.
    2. Inauguration as president of RTS Orlando- This February I had my inauguration. It was a blessing to have my father and Chuck Colson speak. Also had lots of friends from different eras of my life gather. It was just a special time of prayer and consecration. It is a great privilege to be at Reformed Theological Seminary helping train the next generation of pastors and leaders for the kingdom work of the global church in the 21st century.
    3. Safety and blessing in travel-  This year I have been on the road more than at any other period in my life. A team of people help me with each trip. Some trips involve preaching, conferences, meeting with leaders or colleagues, development or enrollment. I have been all over the United States this year, It is a blessing to get to see so much of our amazing country and to seek Christ’s work in so many different settings.
    4. Christina Sweeting-  My wife finished 16 years of home schooling this year. She home schooled all the kids through middle school. She did a heroic, fantastic job. Now they are all launched. One is out of college. Two are in college. One is in middle school. But this investment of my wonderful wife has had a profound effect on the lives of our children.
    5. Julianna-  The boys are now out of the house. Julianna is at home and just made the switch from home school to a local Christian classical school—The Geneva School. Not only is it a great place for her to be, but she has done really well and it is wonderful to see her thrive.
    6. My new iPhone and Steve Jobs-  Yes I am one of those disaffected Blackberry users that couldn’t wait for his contract to run its course. So grateful for the creativity of SJ, and a phone that works so well, not to mention my new friend Siri.
    7. Writing a book with my dad- This year I spent some time writing a book with my 87 year old dad. It is called HOW TO FINISH THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It will be coming out early in 2011 with Moody Press. What a blessing to have a conversation with him about what it means to follow Christ in the second half of life.
    8. A new dog-  Part of the deal about moving to Florida was a puppy for Julianna. While getting a puppy can be quite disruptive, this new little creature has won our hearts and brought a lot of joy to our shrinking family. Her name is Autumn—a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She has reinforced my prejudice that dogs really are better than cats!
    9. The privilege of serving on several boards-  This enables me to serve in several important arenas, and helps me see leadership issues from different perspectives. It has a been a joy to serve on the board of trustees at Colorado Christian University. It is an up and coming Christian college. Also, as of this Fall, I just started serving on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals.
    10. Thanksgiving with my parents-  My parents are now in their mid 80s, still in their own home, and relatively healthy. To be able to have most of my children gather to spend Thanksgiving with them is…….sweet. The day will soon come when this is no longer possible. Coming home for Thanksgiving has special meaning this year.

So, these are my top ten. What are yours?

One of the Sweeting Thanksgiving customs is to place five corn kernels at each place setting. During the meal, each person has to share five things from this past year that they are thankful for. It is an old New England Thanksgiving custom. It is another way to count our blessings and make Thanksgiving—thanks-giving!

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