When I lived in the Midwest, I went to various seminars about fundraising as the executive director of a missions organization. At one seminar, the leader talked about the knowledge and the ability to make money. I had heard another lecture on the same subject during my time at seminary, when a well-known Boston businessman came to lecture about money. That businessman’s example was about shoes: if a shoe cost one-third of the selling price, how were the remaining two-thirds divided equitably among the various workers involved? The Midwestern lecturer talked about how his organization was making money as a janitorial company for large enterprises, such as hospitals and government buildings. He explained that making money becomes almost a high for the company executives; after a number of years, they develop a sort of itch to make more money simply because they can.
I am not an economist and I do not sit in judgment of capitalistic enterprise, but I remember from that presentation that making money can become dangerous unless you are thankful for what you have. The leader explained that candy or cars or money can become addictive unless we have developed our thankfulness quotient. The Apostle Paul exhibits this when he says we should give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.
This led me to reflect on how traveling has been a blessing for me this year. I went to conferences for historians and theologians, ecumenical councils between evangelicals and orthodox, celebratory events for centenarian friends, and even a trip to South Africa to go on safari. Even with all the attractive reductions and accommodations, these trips are pretty expensive. My parents did not have these opportunities, but it has become something that I do more often these days. When I look to my kids, they travel even more often than I do. I consider myself blessed to have these opportunities when I know that so many people cannot imagine doing these things.
I met a person a while ago who explained to me that they are in constant pain. Although I take a good number of medications after the implantation of my heart stent, my cardiologist tells me that I am of good peasant stock and I should be healthy for many years. Having a strong, healthy body for all these years is such a blessing and I am thankful to the One who weaved my body in my mother’s womb, because I am fearfully and wonderful made.
A friend of mine remarked that our family really likes to be together. My wife and I love to be with our children and their spouses or significant others and our grandchildren. It is something that we have nurtured, and it provides such a happy familial environment. We create opportunities to be together and if we have to travel strictly for the sake of being together, we do that. We are truly blessed and thankful for the times that we have together.
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I thank God every day because I wake up each morning with joy and excitement about the things that I get to do. Being a pastor and a professor are such fulfilling professions, and I am challenged and blessed every day. At this time of Thanksgiving, let us focus on the ways we have been blessed instead of longing for more. I hope that what you do gives you joy and fulfillment, and a heart filled with thanksgiving.