My Thanksgiving List

The Bedtime Version

We just celebrated Thanksgiving. It is a day of, well, thanksgiving. I am famous for missing the point, and I believe I have done this on many Thanksgivings. I prepare for the big dinner thinking about the opening prayer. What should I include that absolutely nails what we as a family are thankful for? I think about it but never write anything down. After the food is served, the anxiousness of the moment takes over, and I give a shorter rendition of the longer prayer I had planned.

“We thank you, God, for all your blessings, especially the blessing of family and friends. Thank you for this food. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

But something was different this year. My editor, Gregg Hinthorn, asked me to write down all I was grateful for. Nothing fancy. Just a list of all that comes to mind. So I agreed to do it.

I’ve read the articles which tell us grateful people are happier people. I am sure you’ve read one or two over the last couple of days. I am always skeptical when I hear this.

However, I discovered, after spending an hour or so compiling this list, that acting grateful actually makes me grateful. Long after I stopped writing, my mind would not quit. The list just started getting longer. And you know what? I am happier for having written the list.

This 2015, here is what I’m grateful for…

For Jesus Christ who decided, long before I was born, to save me from myself and bring me to Him when I was forty years old. He transformed a life centered on personal achievement and alcohol into a life focused on His purpose. Faith, hope and love. All this and eternal life too!

For my wife Kathy who just loves me. She is the one who keeps all the lines blurred among the roles of wife, friend, playmate, mother, daughter, sister and sister-in-law. She loves and knows how to make our lives fun and interesting.

For my children and grandbaby. I couldn’t love them more or be more proud of them. If they are all of my legacy in this world, then the legacy is in good hands. They are the greatest with each being great in their own special way.

For my closest relatives. For my sister, mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, brother-in-law and even the ex brother-in-law. For all my beautiful and fun-filled nephews and nieces. They are the best family and support group I could ever ask for. I love it when we have weddings as it is the time we all show up. It is a gift to see how much we enjoy being with each other. The future is exciting.

For my friends. The old, old friends and the new, new friends. Friends bring comfort, joy and interest to my life. They challenge me, respect me, love me, fix me, make me laugh, give me encouragement, give me new ideas. Each in his own way shows by example how I can live a better life. To enjoy life even more because they are in my life.

For my entrepreneurs and their great teams. These are the guys I invested in, whether we are still active together or have exited the business. These are the people who showed me visions of what could be that wasn’t there yet. How together we can make a difference. Together we are focused on building great companies while honoring God every day. Part of that honor is the respect and honor we continue to show for each other.

For our great new home and wonderful new neighbors and friends. Many of us are in the same stage of our lives, dealing with the same issues, wrestling with life transition and life purpose. All while enjoying the best place we have ever lived with the best view in the city.

For Church of the Apostles. A light on a hill where the Word of God is preached and discussed boldly. It is a place led by godly men and women for godly men and women who love God, proclaim Jesus as Savior and Lord, and love their neighbors as themselves. Apostles is a place of leadership, hope, encouragement and refuge. It is where I belong.

For the blessings of success and the rewards of achievement. The ability to provide for my family and the next generation. The responsibility to see the needs of others and to help satisfy those needs. The responsibility to continue to invest in entrepreneurs in business and in ministry.

For my friend and partner Pastor Elijah in Uganda. He showed me another part of the world. A world where people start with nothing, are going nowhere but always keep moving because they have the hope of Christ. He is one of the greatest leaders I have ever met, and it is evidenced by the people who follow him. He is changing lives and lives full-on to achieve the vision God gave him.

For God using Pastor Elijah to move me far out of my comfort zone.

For the ATDC allowing me to have an office there. I am in an environment of unbridled idealism. I am surrounded by the brightest, most motivated and visionary people I have every met. They are there every day. They love each other and help each other succeed. Then I go to lunch and walk onto the Georgia Tech campus. I watch the next generation laugh, stress, study, cry, love, and hope. These young men and women will impact the world.

For my Harley Davidson motorcycle which gives me the opportunity to get my head out of the office and into the on-rush of air at 70 mph.

For the ability to take Kathy on trips we haven’t planned yet. To have an activity we enjoy doing together while meeting new people at the same time.

For problems. Without problems, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Problems keep me engaged. I learn from my mistakes and not from my achievements. The mistakes give wisdom and dependence on God. The achievements are God’s way of providing a bit of self-confidence.

For God always putting new opportunities in my path. Just when I think I may be finished with this career, He pops a new person, a new vision, a new company up in front of me and says, “Let’s do it.” God keeps telling me, “It’s not about you. It’s about me and the people I put in your path.”

For the Atlanta High Tech community. I met these people in the early nineties and smile every time I see them or think about them. Some are still engaged and many have moved on. We have a terrific closely-knit community here in Atlanta. These are people who created a culture and environment which served as a foundation for future growth and prosperity.

For David Cumming, Blake Patton, Paul Judge, Rajan Paliswamy, KP Reddy, and many others. They are stepping into the breach and leading the next generation of entrepreneurs. The investment you are making in time and money will reward you greatly and move our community forward. I admire you and thank you.

For a good cigar at just the right time. An H. Upmann Lonsdale has the ability to relax me, focus me, and give me a bunch of new ideas all at the same time. It does not happen often, but when the time is right, I’m there.

For Angel Lounge. We are a gathering of angel investors who want to get better at what we do—helping entrepreneurs succeed and making a return while doing it. It is an occupation which could have as its purpose simply making money or, to the other extreme, being a ministry for the Lord. I love how different we are and how God has brought us together. I love these monthly gatherings.

For my 60’s monthly dinner group. There are five of us who meet each month. We share our lives, challenges, failures, and accomplishments. We struggle together to make sense of this next stage in our lives. To stay engaged and finish strong. I couldn’t do it without my brothers.

For the people who still think I have something to offer. This is an age thing, too. As I get older, I experience people treating me as someone who may be losing relevance. This may be true in the technical aspects in the tech profession but not in the fundamentals of life and entrepreneuring. I thank the people who still seek help from me as it reinforces my value and purpose. Without you, I may just fade away.

For my sister who is eleven years older than I am. I thank God for not being the oldest. I watched and continue to watch the impossible expectations set for the first child. The good news for me was, she blazed the path. And a hard path it was. She was a late 1950’s beatnik, a feminist, a professional artist, a school teacher for a time, recipient of two masters degrees, bartender, waitress, world traveler, voracious reader, museum guide and college professor.

She stood up to my dad who thought her best roles in life were secretary and housewife. Not for her. She wouldn’t hear of it. My sister had a huge impact on my life and where I am today. She showed me anything is possible if you are willing to fight for what you believe in.

For health…mine and Kathy’s. She is a much healthier specimen than I am, but I am in pretty good shape. I have friends that were hit with the early maladies of age, and I have mostly escaped them. Absent high cholesterol, being overweight and the resulting clogged heart arteries, I’m OK. All of my heath issues are not surprises but rather the direct result of lifestyle choices. I need to get a grip as I see so many of my friends doing. In the meantime, I am thankful for my health.

For Robert Campbell and Bill Leonard of High Tech Ministries. God used Robert and Bill to introduce me to Jesus Christ. I resisted for over twelve years but finally found Jesus irresistible. These men are devoted disciples of Jesus Christ and deny themselves each day and pick up their cross and follow Jesus. I know. I watch them. Thanks for introducing me to eternal life and the fullness of life here on earth. You saved me and multiple generations through your love and boldness.

For the friends in my two Bible studies. I look forward to our weekly meetings because I look forward to seeing you. We share our lives at a deeper level. When seeking our personal relationship with God together, we share our most personal thoughts, fears, and hopes. This happens in few other places in my life. This is friendship, exposing ourselves and loving each other for who we are.

Finally for you, my dear reader. When you see me, you call out to thank me and tell me how much this writing is impacting you. You then share your stories. The total surprise of this blog is how it has brought me closer to so many people in my life. We are connected. We share each other’s lives and simply enjoy each other. I really appreciate you. You are a great encouragement to me in my life, and I hope I am an encouragement in yours. I consider you my friend.

A few years ago, I gave a particularly long prayer to bless a meal. At the end of the prayer, my daughter Lisa told me, “Dad, you should save some of your prayers for bedtime.” Because of this advice, I kept the Thanksgiving prayer short. Now I have my list for bedtime.

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