Thanksgiving 2013


Every year I post a list of what I’m Thankful for – so here’s my list for this year (if you want to see previous years’ lists, you can find them here (2008), here (2009), here (2010), here (2011), and here (2012).  As always, these are in no particular order except when it comes into my mind as I write – and names have been omitted so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

My family (including my wife and kids), giggling girls and tickle wars, time spent in front of the fire, Mario Bros Wii, playing games with the girls, pizza, pancakes, french toast, my job, colleagues at work I enjoy working with, friends both near and far, our new church, Star Trek, Tolkien, free books for blogging, Gary Thomas, AP, CO, JE, our small group, second chances, grace, promises fulfilled, hope for the future, a home we can all our own, heated mirrors on the van, air in the car, power locks and power windows (that actually work), Christoff, Cosette, and Sophie (our pets :)), a new TV, All Things Apple (sorry, still not thankful for Windows and definitely not thankful for Google), WordPress, Megastuff Oreos, chocolate (especially white and dark), Washington DC (though perhaps not all its occupants), freedom, the right to vote, Facebook friends (even if I do disagree with their politics on occasion), UNC, my profs, semester breaks, finished papers, good grades, Heaven, ultimate healing, that both my girls love Jesus, a vision for discipleship, the leadership team, AR, KS, friends for my girls, digital photography (especially B&W), electricity, a new washer and dryer, snuggling, unlimited data, Netflix, pillows, Target, gas start for the fireplace, the swing set, bicycles, shoes, birthdays, weekend breakfasts, Red Robin, classmates, good conversations, blogs, Twitter, successful conferences, sweaters, sweatshirts, family movie nights, great in-laws, cheap gas, extended family, my girls learning to read, my daughters’ teacher, forgiveness, mercy, warning tickets (instead of the real thing!), safe travel every week to Chapel Hill, cheap parking, going for a walk in the snow with the dog, there’s only 3 more years left, that God is in control, insurance, the rocking chair, PODS, fall leaves, seasons, snow, the mountains, the annual beach trip, gas stove, dishwashers, microwaves, a new Walmart, Amazon, ebooks, Zotero, Adobe Acrobat (the full version!), iAnnotate, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, family vacations, road trips, caves, watching my girls experience something exciting for the first time, freebies, teddy bears, zoos, rose bushes, flowers at the grocer stores, bandaids, doctors, asthma medication, days off, ES, NMD, CG, mended relationships, organizational healing, transparency, the Cross, the Resurrection, John Eldridge, podcasts, backpacks, digital cameras, brownies, ice cream, Sweet Frog, chocolate chip cookies (especially when they are warm), surprise lunches and family visits, my brothers, nieces, nephews, my sister (even though she’s in Heaven), MK, MC, ICs, Jim Knight, professional learning, ASCD, Learning Forward, Lysol, NyQuil, hot tea, Caribou Coffee’s Snow Drifts, Haagan-Daas, South Point, Dad has finally seen the light and bought a Mac, lawnmowers, hot tubs, waterfalls, hikes in the mountain, the ability to read, sci-fi, questions (whether or not they are answered), learning, the ability to think and reason, music, kids, The Bible, my choir (and it’s members, not to mention that hot accompanist!),  getting to work with my wife, digital movies, iTunes, airplanes, Christmas, Easter, laptops, Evernote, Skitch, the ability to type, being able to ride a bike, going for walks around the neighborhood, playing at the park, paper plates, picnics, state parks, national parks, Gilbert & Sullivan (still!), parades, buy-two-get-three-free sales at HT, trips to Chicago, EP, DP, blankets, warm sheets in the winter, potty-trained children, music lessons, growth, safety nets, warm socks, slippers, bird feeders (so we can watch the birds), trips without flat tires, seeing deer on the way home from class, kayaks and canoes, time spent on the river, ceiling fans, no-iron shirts, hangers, pencils (erasers even more so), pens, colored markers, Jot Point, marriages that last, mentors, legos, the Holy Spirit, Olive Tree, accountability, encouragement, electricity, the printing press, my health, doctors for when we’re sick, medicine, family time.

I’m sure I forgot something, but this is good for now….  What about you?  What are you thankful for?

My 2012 Thanksgiving List


So here’s my annual list of things I’m thankful for.  Some of these are probably obvious to you, others probably seem silly, and some are (hopefully) profoundly significant.  To protect the innocent I will not list last names when referring to people, so if your name by chance appears on the list assume it’s you, unless of course you don’t want to be on my list and then you can assume it’s someone else with the same name :).  These are listed in no particular order except with which they come to mind, so reading this list may give you an insight into how my mind works…  With no further delay, here’s my 2012 list.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Melissa, Chloe, and Celeste; my parents; my in-laws; my brothers (and sister); family. Christoff & Cosette; Sophie.  Victor Hugo (yes, the author), Les Miserables, free books, Twitter (though I’m still having mixed feelings about Facebook), reconnecting with old friends, my iPad, streaming Netflix, The X-Files, snuggling on the couch with my sweetie and watching a movie, wood-burning fires, camping, tree-climbing, kayacks, cycling, hiking in the mountains (though I haven’t done it in awhile); Oreos (the double-stuffed variety), Caribou Coffee (not for coffee but for their milk chiller things – if a drink were sinful these would be it!), grilled cheese sandwiches, the Meat House, steaks, paintings over the fireplace, a job I love, schools (both those I attend and those I serve), my education, the ability to read, washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, power steering, cruise control, a moonroof, convertibles (even though I don’t have one), dreams, hope, trials that pointed me back to Christ, salvation, hope, the Holy Spirit, a new church home, friends from “old” churches, free text books available from libraries, Chegg, Target (but not Walmart), Apple, the 27” Thunderbolt display, “The Beast”, Apple TV, the iPhone, Blup-rays, a house, a home, family vacations (even if they are to the beach), my choir, music, Redbox, completed papers, great co-workers (including the boss), prayer, my Bible, freedom, the right to choose to go to church, Swiss Gear, long-sleeve T-shirts on cool fall days, snow, colored leaves, cool weather, tea (both hot and iced but definitely not sweet), freebies, teaching the girls to ride a bike, watermelon, pictures (both paper and digital), decreased cholesterol, swing sets, parks, catching up with out of town friends at a soccer game, the faith to believe God is in control, the teachers who taught me to dig-in to the Bible, parents who taught me to love the Word, safe travel, UNC (since they’re taking all my money :)), quiet evenings, busy days, Daddy-daughter dates, Daddy-days, impromptu ballet recitals, tea-parties, breakfast in bed, “Daddy, I love you all the time”, joy, chocolate-chip dippers from Trader Joe’s, hot chocolate (particularly if it’s white peppermint), Häagen-Dazs, buy-2-get-3-free sales (especially on ice cream), music in worship (even if it is often too loud), early-morning mens’ Bible study, Cracker Barrel, chicken-nuggins, pep’roni pizza, movie nights, family game night, watching the girls play the Wii, rocking chairs, story time, devotions, praying with others, hearing Celeste pray, Awana, flowers that bloom, grass to mow, power lawnmowers, a car to drive, falling gas prices, weekends away with my sweetie, special dinners in, coming home every day, “DAAAAADDDDDYYYY!”, unlimited data on my cell phone, sermon podcasts, Pastor Chris, air conditioning (at home and in the car), gas furnace, ceiling fans, electricity, microwaves, a gas stove, grilling out, camp fires, my guitar (even though I don’t play it often), singing “Fruit of the Spirit”, body pillows, hard-wood floors, power windows, a risen savior (is there any other kind?), forgiveness, grace, second chances (and thirds, fourths, fifths…..), having people who believe in me, baseball caps, transition lenses, eye glasses, sleeping in, changed perspectives, warm sheets, leaves to rake, afternoon naps, days off work, Pixar movies, super heroes, Revenge (about the only show I make time to watch every week), trash pickup, clean water, hot water, hot showers, shampoo-and-conditioner in one, health insurance, loans paid off, power razors, homemade cookies, frozen yogart from Peppermints, BrrrBerry, YoPop, or even Sweet Frog, shoes for my feet, Facetime, pianos, Pandora, Mahler symphonies, snuggle-time with the girls.

So that’s just a short list – how about you?  What are you thankful for?

Be Thankful for Your Teacher and a Vet


Recently I received an email from my Aunt who lives in Arizona.  She likes to forward those emails that everyone gets, but one caught my eye and, upon further investigation, it actually appears to be true.  Below is a copy of the email she sent:

 Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.  When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

‘Ms. Cothren, where’re our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’

‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’

She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.  By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.  Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded Teacher of the Year for the state of Arkansas in 2006.

Here’s why I share this story (one that honestly brought tears to my eyes as I read it).  The power and influence teachers have over children is absolutely astronomical – teachers can single-handedly chance the course of a child’s life, for good or bad.  Recently I was on vacation and was lucky enough to spend a day at Sea World – one of my absolute favorite places.  While I was there I kept thinking to myself, “Wow – what a cool place to work!”  That thought was immediately followed by, “But I’m not a science person, this isn’t the job for me.”

But that’s the funny part – when I was a kid I absolutely loved science – it was my favorite subject.  There was one teacher in particular who made the world come alive for me in a way I had never experienced – everything was hands-on and inquiry-based.  We asked questions and solved problems.  And we learned – if you asked me to identify the different types of clouds I can still recall laying on my back in the middle of the field during class as we looked up and learned about the types of clouds back in elementary school (much more interesting and engaging that learning it from a textbook).

Then I got to a new school – I was so excited to go to science, but once I got there my excitement quickly faded, in large part because the teachers just didn’t cut it.  They were boring, had low (and I mean LOW) expectations, and didn’t challenge me to learn.  The same is true in the field of art for me.  My wife loves the visual arts (her grandmother was an artist).  But me?  Not so much.  For the very reason I don’t understand it.  When we visit art museums I get bored, because I don’t understand what I’m looking at, and I can’t appreciate it.  But when I go with her and she explains it to me I enjoy it much more.  And guess what – my visual art teachers weren’t always the best, they were unable to connect with me (in all fairness, there was one in particular who did a great job, but by the time I got to him I was already turned off to art so I just didn’t work as hard as I could have for me).

But then there were teachers I absolutely loved – teachers whose class I didn’t want to miss for anything – teachers I worked hard for and invested time in because they did challenge and engage me.  Those teachers were ones I signed up to take extra classes with when I could, because I knew my time would be rewarded.  Choir, music, photography, English (I still remember my Lit G class to this day!), and history – all classes where the teachers taught me to think for myself, encouraged (and expected) me to ask questions, and helped me find answers.  When one of those teachers first said to me, “I could picture you as a teacher one day.”  It was the first time that thought had ever crossed my mind, but it’s the thought that stayed with me and helped direct and entire career path that’s brought me to where I am today.

Which gets out back to where I started… For those teachers out there who follow this blog, look for ways to engage and encourage your students – which will often require a dramatic shift in how you think about education (that’s what the story above demonstrates, a dramatic shift!).  And for you Vets out there who served and sacrificed so that I and others could go to school, thank you.

Every year I create a list of what I’m thankful for.  This year you can believe that teachers (some very specific ones) and Vets (again, some very specific ones) are on my list.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving List 2011 (4.8)


Every year I create a new list of what I’m thankful for, so since this is our last rehearsal before Thanksgiving here’s this year’s list.  As always, this is in no particular order, and if I’ve left something off know that this is not ALL I’m thankful for, it’s just what will fit on the page.  Having been doing this exercise for several years, I can tell you that this exercise is invaluable in redirecting my focus back towards the giver of everything, and I would strongly encourage you to try it yourself.  Some of the things on my list are big, some or little, and some are a little strange (you may not understand them all since some you had to be there to get) – but for everything here I am thankful.  One disclaimer – since some people get offended if they are accidentally left off a list like this, there are no names, just initials – that way I know who they are, but no one else does (and if they’re your initials you don’t know if it’s you or someone else with the same initials!).

Christ, God’s faithfulness, my family, the girls, Cosette, Christoff, a house and a home, a job, my job, new washers and dryers, electricity, friends, walks in the woods, fall leaves, snow days, swimming in the summer, a week at the “beach house”, the mountains, parmesan crusted baked red drum (that stuff is good!), triple-decker Oreos, double stuff-Oreos, chocolate-Oreo ice cream, Peppermints, the iPhone, a computer (even though it ain’t a Mac), Macs, Evernote, iPad, sermons on my iPod, GPS-enabled tracking when I go hiking, the kayak, seeing dolphins on the water, state parks, health insurance, allergy medicine, a car that runs (even when the window doesn’t work), air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, wood-burning fireplaces, campfires, insurance companies, a roof over my head, wireless mice, really-cool-presenter-tools, traveling for business, coming home, home-cooked meals, pizza, chocolate cake with chocolate icing, good health, healing, healthy children and family members, Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters (even those in heaven), the cross, the empty tomb, the ability to read, the printing press, Friday morning Bible study before work, surprise trips to Dunkin’ Donuts, kids-eat-free at Chik-fila, kids-eat-free deals, buy-one-get-one-free, buy two-get-three free ice creams, great co-workers, pets, play-houses, running in the open field, watching the girls play together, snuggling on the couch, free books, music, guitars, pianos, listening to my wife play the piano, violin lessons, knowing how to type, Twitter (though the jury is still out on Facebook), WordPress, a new camera, support from family and friends, forgiveness, second chances, third chances, fourth chances, un-deserved chances, grace, dish washers (any kind that doesn’t involve me standing over the sink and washing dishes), our great baby sitters, learning, “I love you, Daddy”, “DAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYYYY!!!!!”, marriage, rocking chairs (especially when they’re shared with my daughters), Baby Girl, Little Girl, Sweetie, RSC, KS, P&BL, AP, DP, MC, CO, SJ, SM, M&GK, B&LF, people to talk to, friends and family who answer the phone whenever, weekends-away on a house boat, JW, SB & MP coming to check on me, hearing “Well done!”, J&MD, lunch out with friends, CG, great neighbors (who share chainsaws and swap babysitting!), BCCS, “Mama-hugs” when mama is away, SINET, a good mechanic, trust (given and received), picnics, Cook Out shakes, a good home-made cheeseburger, grilling out, selling old stuff on eBay, a self-propelled lawn mower, swing sets, hammocks, faith, living in a country where I can openly share my faith, the right to vote, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, sunny days, rain, trials (even though they’re difficult) because they cause me to grow, paper, new paint on the wall, laser printers, a good relationship with my in-laws, trips to SLC, air planes, wood decks, hot tubs, pools, Excedrin migraine medicine, file cabinets (even if they are unorganized), LCD projectors, Prezi, working for a good boss, dead roaches, hope, salvation, prayer (and the right to pray), people praying for me, people for whom to pray, sub-jobs, students, Windows (only because it shows how wonderful a Mac is!), three-ring binders, pens and pencils, paper clips, Post-It notes (especially the ones in the fan-fold dispensers), a good chair to sit in, furniture, DVR, the Bible, afternoon naps, and teddy bears.

Thanksgiving 2009 (Issue 2.9)


Originally Written for 11/22/09

Every year I compile a list of things I’m thankful for.  So, here’s my annual list.  As always, these come in no particular order (except that in which they occur to me).  They are a combination of spiritual and less-than-spiritual.   I hope you can take time this week to make your own list.  You won’t understand everything, and that’s okay, but hopefully you’ll understand most of it.

God’s grace; mercy; forgiveness; a wonderful church home; a pastor who preaches the truth; a great choir; my wife and kids; babies who sleep through the night; poopy-in-the-potty days; a job I enjoy; having an impact on kids; free ice-cream days; Chik-fila; the “blue slide”; prayer partners; mentors; Christian parents; Christoff & Cosette; Sophie jumping on my lap; DVR; a new ipod; digital cameras; hard drive backups; good choir accompanists; cars that run; the mountains in fall; the mountains in summer; heck, the mountains all the time; day trips to the beach; “first airplane” days with Dave; eating out; eating at home; paper clips and staples (I use ‘em every day); washing machines and clothes dryers; Macintosh computers; laptops; healthy kids; getting over a cold; mint-chocolate brownies; 6th grade team meetings on Fridays; chocolate; family visits from out-of-town; visiting family out-of-town; electricity; furnaces and air conditioning units; kayaks; hugs from my little girl; smiles on my wife’s face; making steak on the grill; making burgers on the grill; the written word of God; small group Bible study; encouraging notes and emails from others; my bike – and the ability to ride it (even though I don’t do it nearly enough); walks in the morning; angels who protect me; a country where I can worship freely; volunteers who help out; a new desk; plants; all the flowers in the front yard; swings; parks; “elm park”; “new park”; waves out the sun roof; reading books; devotional time; a boss who lets me go home; music; calculators; comfy chairs; accidents where no one gets hurt; gas in the car; wonderful secretaries; second chances (and third/fourth/fifth chances, too!); cheap dog food from Sams; freezers and a new fridge; vacuum cleaners; rugs; couches; guitars; pianos; drums; singing with my family at night; dinner together; jobs I enjoy; answered prayer; Anderson going home; grandma’s and grandpa’s; walks in the woods; walking sticks; backpacks; recovered pictures off broken hard drives; ebay; email (but not voice mail); Google Reader; blogs; lulu.com; Pastor Chris; Mark Driscoll; different points-of-view; reaching consensus; “the process”; social-emotional learning theory; How Children Learn Music; CBS; songselect.com; Powerpoint; David doing the slides; soloists who say “Yes”; small groups of singers; mylearningplan.com; a system that works; fixing a system that doesn’t work; SROs; playing in the yard; running in the park; kites; Blue Ridge Parkway; visiting Virginia; friends to stay with; telephones (though the jury is still out on cell phones); teachers; Christian education; grace periods; the ability to learn; free newspapers online; saving money; leading worship; flashlight books; big-girl beds; new sheets; new clothes; shoes; clean clothes; oatmeal for breakfast; promises fulfilled; promises to look forward to.

Thanksgiving 2008 (Issue 1.14)


Originally Written for 11/23/08)

Every year at Thanksgiving time I put together a list of things for which I’m thankful.  So, today, I’m presenting to you my annual Thanksgiving list.   Some are silly and some are serious, some are though-provoking and some are probably insignificant.  Some you’ll understand but others you won’t.  They’re listed in no particular order, except the order they come to me in.  That’s okay, though, because this is my list of what I’m thankful for.  Hopefully, you can make one, too.

Have a blessed, joyous, and gracious Thanksgiving!

–    Tom

Music, God’s love, forgiveness, friends, family, pets, Christoff, Cosette, Gingerbread, Oliver, Sophie, Chloe Faith, a loving wife, Mary, a good job, kids, love, hope, Christ’s death and resurrection, a wonderful church, Pastor Bill, wood-burning fireplaces, books to read, blankets, snowy days, Mac computers, Office, iPods, gas stoves, Bible study groups, choir, praise team, prayer, the Holy Spirit living in me, pizza, PEP, Maggiano’s, worship, hymnals, songs, Christian radio, leather portfolios, paper pads, pens and pencils, paper clips, washers and driers, dish washers, clean clothes, the minivan, a car, falling gas prices, a home, freezers and refrigerators, Andy, Ken, JW, Bob & Lily, the Greens, pianos, guitars, African drums, drum circles, World Music Drumming, air planes, traveling to other places, condos in NC, Craig, Eric, Mike, Claudia, Rhonda, Amy, all the kids, second chances (and third ones, too!), mint M&Ms, Peppermint-Chocolate Chip milkshakes from Chick-fila, Steak-n-Shake, hamburgers on the grill, outside fire-pits, new decks, swings, parks, The Goose, kayaks, mountains, bikes, new friends, help, grace, scissors, telephones (though not the cell kind), great secretaries, “Paid in Full”, nursery workers, friends for Chloe, warm food, microwaves (most of the time), french fries at the fair, sheds, lawnmowers that work and keep on working, wireless keyboards, DVR (can I hear an AMEN?!), orchestra, drama productions, playing with my wife and daughter, Shenandoah, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the AT, hiking on the trail, Thanksgiving, freedom, those who fought for our freedom, prayer, being made right with God, holiness, Daniel, index cards, Sudoku, Settlers, fall leaves, expandable tables, silverware, balloons and bubbles, “Hello!”, “Daa-DEEEE!!”, a good relationship with my in-laws, loving and supportive parents, Dr. Seuss, Max Lucado, CD players, rocking chairs, rocking the baby to sleep, John Ortberg, Pastor Marv, Larry, change (in real life and in my pocket), trips to DC, “Mooooooo”, apple orchards, deer, new paint (and carpet, too), David & Dava, baby backpacks, disposable diapers, trash collectors, the mail man, new trees, days off work, discipline-free days, Excel, Frank the piano tuner, Grant, Star Trek: TNG, the Food Network (because it gives Melissa good ideas for food!), Oreos, Okracoke, smoothies, a Skinny Monkey, chocolate (dark, white, and even milk), lasagna, our country, the Bill Engval Show, snuggling on the couch, lying on the floor, teddy bears, bath time, hot water in the shower, remote-starts, the ability to work, electricity, a working furnace, eternal life, Erin, books-on-iPod, the Bible, colored paper, laser printers, cordless phones, keys, fishes, baby signs, blue eyes, an attic, fences, pooper-scoopers, CWT on the Palm, entering everything in Fulcrum, email, digital cameras, external hard drives, wise counsel, patience, phone books (online and in print), church directories, going out to lunch, dinner invitations, rechargeable batteries, the grocery store, paper bags (instead of plastic), litter boxes, Little People, bed-time stories, Chloe’s special CD, a house, mac & cheese, a sandwich-press, blenders, Great Outdoors, a good doctor, flower boxes with flowers, the pond, bocce, gas grills, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, cards, multiple bedrooms, childhood memories, new Bibles, toilets that flush, running water,  Jiffy Crunchy Peanut Butter, homemade apple sauce and pies, glasses, wedding rings, new shoes, car seats, goin’ to the river, Lowes, David, people who listen, counselors, teachers, a great staff, bus drivers (believe me on this), the cafeteria people, lunch every day, pick-me-ups, making people smile, connecting people with God.