Archive for November, 2015

Different reasons for gratitude

“Do you know what ‘gratitude’ means?” I asked my 8-year-old a while back.

“It means you have a great attitude?” he answered, less than certainly. I smiled and assured him that was as good a definition as any dictionary could give.

As I write, two funeral programs stare back at me. Both men, young men, died earlier this year at ages less than mine. I’ve kept their faces on my desk as a reminder: Live this day with gratitude.

Gratitude opens my eyes to a world unseen by a clamoring, grasping nature. It slows me to the speed of appreciation. Here, people return to being fellow God-image bearers, not merely conduits of my advancement.

From this lookout, I bring a different cornucopia of blessings for which I’m thankful:

1. A cup of clean water – A missionary to Peru returned to the States on furlough recently. His most striking culture shock? The sheer availability of drinkable water. I’ve since quit complaining about the taste of tap water.

2. A high in the 70s – The stock market has averaged a 12% annual return a year since 1928. But in how many years has the return been 12%? Two. The average high temperature in Texas may be in the 70s. But on how many days is the high actually in the 70s? Not many. I’m thankful when it is.

3. A disability – We are all disabled in some form or fashion. Some of us more noticeably or more severely than others. But nothing puts life in perspective like a handicap. It seems irrational not to want to send back an illness, an injury, an abuse, a catastrophe. But many “victims” wouldn’t trade their stories. They learned too much. They became too much.

4. A vehicle – It may be sixteen years old with rips in its leather and a busted taillight, but my Land Cruiser still unlocks opportunity. Transportation creates disproportionate returns. It delivers knowledge, relationships, employment and enjoyment well beyond its raw value.

5. A good woman’s love – I can’t put it better than a song by Roots & Wings:

“A good woman’s love is sweet like the summer / It saves you like a shelter just when you need it the most / A good woman’s love is solid like a mountain / Like a road that just keeps winding, it goes on & on & on”

6. The strength to respond – Again from Roots & Wings:

“An honest man would know, once he’s finally found her / He better put his arms around her and never let her go / ‘Cause once you have a woman’s love / Treat her like no other, place nothing else above her / She’ll love you more than you could know / That’s a woman’s love”

7. A child’s resilience – As a parent, how many do-overs could you use? Instruction given more gently, patience given more liberally, perspective maintained more consistently. And yet kids bounce back like a trampoline: ready to forgive, willing to forget, hoping for the best from the people who brought them into this world.

In the words of my spiritual mentors, The Oak Ridge Boys:

“When you look down in those trusting eyes / That look to you, you realize / There’s a love that you can’t buy / Thank God for kids”

Kevin Thompson can be reached at

A Herculean Halloween

Our family has have never really prioritized Halloween. Oh, we’ll make it to a party or two. We’ll hit a few houses (“hit” in the non-vandal sense). But our kids’ costumes have generally consisted of whatever they can find in the dress-up box (race car driver, puppy dog, Elmo) or in the garage (Olaf painted on a cardboard box). It’s the creativity that counts, right?

The real excitement, at least in recent years, has surrounded The Candy Bowl, an annual early November neighborhood football game that my kids throw. To the victor go the spoils: all leftover Halloween candy.

But this year, with Halloween on a Saturday and a daylight savings hour to spare, we decided to splurge.

First, we planned to hand out actual candy instead of fruit snacks. Then, we planned to eat chili and cornbread with some friends. Finally, and most surprisingly, I agreed to spend hard-earned money on NEW costumes (thrift store purchases have occasionally occurred over the years).

Don’t let your imagination run wild. It didn’t mean we were surfing Amazon for three weeks selecting every last accessory. It meant we were in Wal-Mart at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection.

Our five-year-old son requested Superman. He had worn his cousin’s hand-me-down kangaroo costume to a preschool party two days earlier. Evidently, he was the only non-superhero among the boys in the room. But kangaroos can jump twenty-five feet!?!

His first grade brother requested Captain America. Remarkably, I found both costumes in just the right sizes.

I thought my luck was running out, however, when the nice kid helping me uncovered no “Batgirl” or “Secret Service” outfit. But then, time stood still as I gazed into the eyes of a handsome male model on a costume’s packaging. The costume: Hercules. The size: Adult.

Initially, I struggled to wrap my mind around paying $22.47 for a costume for myself. Last year, I broke my string of twelve straight years as a referee when I bought a pair of disposable white coveralls and went as something of a beekeeper.

But when I remembered that I had to teach David and Goliath the next day at church, I decided to pull the trigger. It was like slaying two hydras with one imaginary sword.

Back home, batgirl became a beautiful butterfly with some face paint and wings we had bought a while back. The aspiring Secret Service agent stuck a pillow under a white button-down, grabbed a walkie talkie and became Paul Blart, Mall Cop. We were set.

When I appeared in mythological form, I was not greeted by fear. My five-year-old said I looked like a girl, my seven-year-old said I needed some fake muscles, my nine-year-old asked, “What in the world is that?” and my twelve-year-old observed, “You’re obviously not Goliath.”

Rrrrr. That’s it. I’m stealing Almond Joys from all your plastic pumpkins! And Hercules is dressing out for The Candy Bowl!!

Well before sunset, the costumed crew trick-or-treated at a few nearby homes before driving to a tract home neighborhood. The subdivision was a land flowing with Milk Duds and Bits-O-Honey, some of which will end up at The Candy Bowl where a  certain middle-aged Hercules plans to reveal his deity to childlike mortals.

Follow Kevin Thompson at

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