As we move deeper into Thanksgiving week, I am overwhelmed by how thankful I am for the people in my life. I am fully convinced that God has put us on earth to love him and love people -- everything else is just noise. This is what I want my life to be about, as reflected in this post from August.
So, as an expression of my gratefulness, I offer this tribute to the people who have meant so much to me. I won't be able to get to everyone, because God has blessed me with so many wonderful people; for that, I offer apologies to anyone I don't mention specifically. Please know that with or without a specific mention, if you're in my life, you mean the world to me.
So here we go. With thanks to the apostle Paul, it is in the format of Hebrews 11:1-12:1.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for, and what people are still commended for today.
By faith my Mom and Dad raised four children that were born in the span of five years. They instilled love for each other, faith in God, and the joy of life in us. My father worked multiple jobs to provide for us and my mother always made time with us a priority. My Dad continues to provide life lessons for me, and by faith my Mom still speaks even though she is with the Lord.
By faith my sister Kim modeled what is is like to be a follower of Jesus on a college campus far from home. That model is still an influence on kids who attend UA today through a scholarship in her name. She also taught me how to love my family better. Though she is no longer on this earth, her faith still speaks.
By faith my niece Holly loved a lifetime's worth in her short 13 years. I mss her as much as I ever did.
By faith my sisters Kay and Kristy show every day what it's like to raise a family and still have time for a brother and a father. They watch out for me and seem to worry about me as much as a mother would. I am very thankful for them.
By faith my nephew Hunter and nieces Haley, Macy, and Brooke continue to love their extended family as much as they did when they were 10...even though they're all college students. I am amazed that they take as much time as they do loving on us, considering all they have on their plate and how many friends they have. I am blessed to be their uncle.
And now for friends:
By faith Steve has stayed in touch with me for right at 30 years now. We met when I was teaching his 10th grade Sunday school class in 1980 or so. And even though he live 200 miles apart and he has a wife and two children, he takes time to hang out at least 4 or 5 times a year. His spiritual wisdom is a light to all who know him and to me especially.
By faith Tommy led our local YoungLife ministry for over 10 years, and during that time became one of my closest friends. He is still leading it as a volunteer, and has followed God's call to another ministry. I admire his faith.
By faith Brian left his home in Georgia (yeah, I guess I stole that line from Sitting on the Dock of the Bay) to come do student ministry here in Montgomery. He is a faithful friend who will do absolutely anything for you. I am thankful to know him.
By faith Jeff has persevered through many obstacles and moved several times to make sure he provides for his family as the Lord expects. Like Steve, he has stayed n touch for nearly thirty years despite not living anywhere near me. Friends like that don't grow on trees.
By faith Clark and Laura followed their Father's call to Asia, and began raising their family there. Through the miracle of facebook, email, and skype, it felt like they lived in the next state instead of on the other side of the Pacific. They have taught me so much about the Father's heart for the whole world.
By faith Russell has raised a family that I almost call my own. His kids are a second generation of YoungLifers, and it is so cool to be friends with them as well as their Dad. He is another friend of 30 years that I still talk to at least weekly. (During football season, make that daily.) Roll Tide, Russell.
By faith my cousin Chip and his wife Susie have adopted from China as their enter their 50s. They have become burdened with God's heart for orphans and want to dedicate the rest of their lives to it. I'm inspired.
What more shall I say? I do not have time to talk about Rusty, Russ, Tim, Audrey, Tammy, and Angie who walked with me through high school and kept me grounded in the faith. Or Larry, Craig, Mark, Norm, Jeannie, Ron, and Hap, who were my mentors as they led YoungLife. Or Windell, Bill, Wyman, Lee, and Steve, supervisors/mentors over the years at work whom God has used to bless me through my career. Or Beth, Lori, Frances, Jody, and Cathy, women of God who taught me what little I know about relating to them. :) There's John, Jesse, Michelle, and two full mission teams with whom I had the privilege to travel to Russia and Africa. Many of them are now lifelong friends.
We're talking friends old and new: Jacob. Jack. Joe. Joe. Janice. Amy. Ann. Nathan. Jason. Mary Kat. Carrie. Bobb. Kevin. Gene. Chip. Jennifer. Kim. Tamara. Katrina. Sarah. Mark. Lee. Andrea. Rob. Lauren. Kathy. Shannon. Kerrie. Yali. Shannon. Beth. Christine. Bill. Sharon. Elissa. Megan. Danny. Laura. Jenny. Matt. Ally. Callie. Liz. Kris. Hillary. Name after name after name after name...there are so many of you I can't count them. Not "people I know". Friends! What a blessed life I have.
The world is not worthy of them. They are all commended for their faith, but most of them have not received what is promised yet.
So, since I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, I do want throw off everything that hinders, and run with perseverance the race marked out for me.
My family and friends inspire me to do so. And I am thankful.