The season of lists

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Looking closely at a family photo

We’re coming up on the Season of Lists—Christmas gift lists and New Year’s resolution lists. But before these two holidays comes Thanksgiving. And so topping the list of lists should be a list of things we’re thankful for. This year my “things I’m thankful for” list starts with this picture.

When I first found the photo, my eyes locked on the table. The day before my brother-in-law had discovered the child’s table in the attic of my parents’ home. I assumed the little table was long gone and seeing it again was like being reunited with an old friend. It was a delight to recall my childhood as I looked at this picture. But I also realized that when I gently nudge the memories a side, the past is the soil in which my 2011 thanksgiving list is growing.

Two sisters… I’m thankful for my siblings—for the sister I grew up with and the brothers- and sisters-in-law I belong to via marriage. Sibling relationships are sometimes complicated, but these friendships can also enrich our lives in one-of-a-kind ways.

Celebrate a birthday… I’m thankful for celebrations. Celebrations provide occasions to affirm one another and to express gratitude to those who enhance our lives. Being the honored guest at a birthday, baptism, wedding or anniversary party tells us that we matter to the people around us.

At their home… I’m thankful that my basic needs are met, that I’ve always had what I need—a warm home, plenty to eat and clothes to wear. I’m grateful that these essentials and other basic needs are taken care of—jobs, health care, education, personal and community safety, etc.

With gifts piled on a small red wooden table. In addition to my needs, I am also blessed with a long list of things that I simply want. Many people in the world can’t say this.

I’m thankful for the things that this picture suggests but doesn’t show. Topping that list is my parents. Neither of my parents is in this picture, but I know they were there; they were always there. I’m thankful for my dad and mom and that a love for Christ and his church is part of who they are. I’m grateful that my family history is filled with more people who put their faith in God than those who didn’t.

So between today and Thanksgiving I invite you to look closely at a favorite photograph. The first glance may take you on a trip down memory lane. But I hope the second look reveals a list of things for which you offer God a prayer of thanksgiving.

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