Great food. Mushrooms, cheeses, salmon and fine meats, wine and beer ... I will blog about it all, eventually, I am sure. Did you ever stop to think that God didn't have to give us taste buds?
Cycling and racquet sports. This is how I burn off all those calories after eating all that great food. Hopefully. I'm not the world's best cyclist, but I'm not bad for a 54-year-old guy who took up the sport only about 10 years ago. Mountain biking, road biking, cyclocross ... it's hard to decide which is the most fun.
Music. God also didn't have to give us ears. It's amazing how acoustic worship, in particular, lifts our hearts to soar before God's throne. I'm so glad I took up acoustic guitar when I was young, and added mandolin several years ago. I really enjoy playing on our church worship band and at World Vision and for special events, even simple things like Salvation Army bellringing! And I love to fall asleep to soft acoustic worship by amazing artists like Chris Tomlin, Shane Bernard, David Crowder, and so many others.
Literature and writing ... and the internet. All my life I've felt driven to write. I was blessed to get published, early in my life, and for the opportunity to write for great magazines and book publishers. I'm not Christendom's best writer, for sure (that was a bubble that got burst long ago), but I still really enjoy using and am thankful for the gift God gave me (even through simple means such as this blog) to communicate my heart and ideas to others.
And did you ever stop to think about what a huge blessing it is to be able to read? Without it, how would we access the dramatic, life-changing, hope-bringing impact of the Bible? Or put ourselves in wild and amazing places like Narnia? Benefit from the wisdom of saints and sages? Or even keep up with what's going on in the world around us? It's simply heart-breaking to think about all the people in the world who don't have this fundamentally life-changing ability.
World Vision ... not only are they an amazing, godly ministry saving lives and changing lives of the poor throughout the world, they have been a phenomenal employer these past 18 years, providing me with livelihood, an outlet for my triple passions ... for communication, technology, and being the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world! My colleagues there are incredible and God has blessed me so much through you!
Elim Evangelical Free Church, is an amazing oasis of God's love and renewal in the midst of a very secular and godless culture here in the Pacific Northwest. They are a very old church (about 130 years) yet it feels very young and fresh. They have a heart for the poor and for those who need to hear about Jesus, and are always doing something to reach out. They have talented and dedicated worship musicians and pastors, very friendly people, sold-out-for-Jesus leadership, and absolutely amazing groups.
Our favorite group at Elim is "Pulse," the young adults ministry which Darlene and I began 10 years ago next February. The young adults who are a part of Pulse constantly blow my mind. We are stimulating each other to love and good deeds and growing together in Christ. The future for these people and this church is so bright!
Two other churches I love: My amazing "home" church in Southern California, CBC. Their ministry in my life has been huge. And the last church plant my wife and I were a part of before we emigrated to the Northwest: The Journey.
Friends and family. Especially my four brothers and sisters, and my two wonderful parents (who are both with Jesus now!). I come from a large family, as the oldest of five. My two brothers and two sisters and I are very close and we have been through a lot together. I so appreciate their love, their commitment to us as a family, and their friendship. They each have great families, are good at what they do, and I really enjoy spending time with them.
Friends are indeed an incredible blessing from God, and I have been blessed with some of the best. From longtime (since college days) buds such as John Veale, Dr. Kenneth Daughters, Dwight Warden and Sue Carson-Kimber, to current pals here in the Northwest like Pastor Martin Schlomer, Doug Ide, Gordy McCoy, Lars Passic, Bob Walsh, and many more ... I shouldn't even start naming because there are too many to list! ... I am so blessed to have a cadre of folks who "have my back." I know I can count on them for godly advice and help whenever the chips are down.
My two amazing kids (and one amazing grandchild). Nathan and Mandy are the best kids one could hope for. They are kind, smart, talented, hard-working, and honest. I consider them both great friends and really enjoy spending time with them. Nathan and I survived several 206-mile bike rides together, and Mandy and I survived five countries (in two months) in Africa together.
And of course Annabelle (11 months) is the cutest grandchild one could hope for. She is obviously very intelligent and has a great sense of humor already. I love her (and both my kids, and the great spouses they married) endlessly!
I will always be thankful for the love, friendship and partnership of my beautiful wife, Darlene. She is my best friend, passionate lover, the mother of my children. We have been friends for 38 years, married for 32, and I feel like I would be lost without her. I am so glad I met her (when I was 15!), recognized instantly what a pearl of great price I had found, and that she was willing to stake her claim with me and has hung with me through thick and thin.
Above all else, I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus ... who took my sin on his shoulders when He hung on the Cross. He died for me so that I could live! He has brought hope, meaning, purpose, and uncounted blessings to my life. And I have the distinct feeling "We've only just begun!"