RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Lists are big around our house: to-do lists, wish lists, resolutions, action plans.
How much of this stuff actually gets accomplished is another matter. But it’s fun to make the lists.
Thanksgiving is a great time to make a list of what you’re thankful for. Not being a turkey, for instance. Another plus about a thankful list is that you don’t have to do anything about the items on the list except be thankful — unless your gratitude leads you to action.
Here’s my thankful list:
1. The presidential campaign is over (at least until candidates for 2008 start popping up in Iowa and New Hampshire in a few months). This is one thing every American (lawyers and campaign consultants aside) can rejoice about — whether your guy won or not.
2. Apparently the republic will survive, despite grumbling in some quarters about secession.
3. Fall has well and truly begun. Perhaps the crispness of the air and the aching clarity of afternoon light will wash the confusion from our minds after a difficult and contentious year.
4. God is still pouring His grace and mercy upon those who believe, though we deserve neither. What a Savior!
5. Freedom is spreading around the world. Not democracy — though that is spreading in some places, too — but spiritual freedom. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the move throughout Asia, Africa, the Muslim world. When it takes hold, it flourishes under any form of government.
6. Young people with a passion for God seem a lot more interested these days in obeying and spreading His Word than in debating it — or leaving it inside churches.
7. Southern Baptist missionaries and their overseas partners began reaching out to 163 mostly unreached people groups (with a combined population of 158 million) last year. The first Baptist churches were begun among 12 people groups where no evangelical congregations of any kind existed before.
8. Four Southern Baptist workers gave their lives in 2004 as they sought to serve hurting people in the Middle East. We miss them and mourn them. But we know their sacrifice is precious in the sight of God — and that it will inspire believers at home and abroad to follow in their footsteps.
9. More than ever before in church history, local churches of all shapes and sizes have the means to partner strategically with missionaries in world evangelization. We now can go virtually anywhere on earth, contact virtually anyone and deliver the Good News — if we seize the opportunities.
10. The spirit of Lottie Moon is very much alive and well in the hearts of Southern Baptists who will give to missions in her memory during the Christmas season.
Consumerism, media overload, the pace of modern life and boredom — not to mention sin — all foment restlessness in our souls. That’s nothing new. In the fifth century, St. Augustine prayed, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
Thankfulness, on the other hand, calms the mind, quiets the heart and directs the spirit toward God. Meister Eckhart, a medieval Christian mystic, asserted: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.”
It might not suffice, but it’s a good place to start.
Erich Bridges is a senior writer at the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Richmond, Va. His column appears twice each month in Baptist Press.