Thirty. It’s the speed limit on Back Beach Road here in Port Chalmers, New Zealand (which is about as fast as I feel comfortable driving on any New Zealand road!), and it’s now the number of years I have been alive. Such a monumental occasion calls for a blog post. On this first of (hopefully) many days as a trigenarian, I would like to reflect on a few of the things in my life for which I am thankful. In the fashion typical of a Type-A individual, my reflection takes the form of a list. The list is in fairly random order.
1. I am thankful for God’s grace. By grace I have been saved through faith. And this is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that I have no right to boast (Eph 2:8-9). Before the foundation of the world, God chose me (Eph 1:4). For this, I am so very thankful. As Charles Spurgeon says, “I believe in the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with such special love” (Defense of Calvinism).
2. I am thankful for my beautiful wife, Jamie. For eight years now, Jamie has been by my side. We’ve become parents, moved house–from Alabama to New Zealand–and experienced numerous other adventures together. Since Jamie and I met, I have been involved in both pastoral ministry and theological education (as a student, teacher, or both). Without Jamie’s unselfish concern for the advancement of the gospel, my work would not be possible. I am truly blessed to have such a loving, supportive, talented, and beautiful wife. (Seriously, what in the world is she doing with me?)
3. I am thankful for my rambunctious boys, Aidan Thomas and Cullen Timothy. I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in truth (3 John 4). Nothing makes this Reformed dad happier than to hear Aidan and Cullen name their stuffed animals “Augustine the Hippo” and “Luther the Lion,” and to hear both boys respond to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Plus, I love having two little fishing buddies.
4. I am thankful for my parents. From childhood I have been acquainted with the sacred writings (2 Tim 3:15). I have my parents to thank for this. As the fellow once said: “When your son asks you how long he has to go to church, just tell him that he has to go until he wants to go.” That’s about how it was in our house growing up. Our family worshiped together. Our family read Scripture together. The first time I heard about Jesus, I heard about him from my mom and dad. For this, I am thankful.
5. I am thankful for my grandparents. My grandparents are some of the greatest people I know. When I think of the one who has passed away, and the three who are still with us, I think of Paul’s words in Gal 5:22: ”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Faithful saints. That’s my grandparents.
6. I am thankful for my two brothers and their families. They may make fun of me for wearing the same sweater every year to the family Christmas party, and one of them may call me “Pope Dillon,” because I am not currently serving in a Baptist church (and apparently for him all non-Baptists are Roman Catholics…), but I have many memories of great times with my brothers. Some of these memories involve a Chinese buffet, a .22 caliber rifle, and golf clubs (but not mixed together). This is not the place to provide the details.
7. I am thankful for my extended family. My extended family get-togethers are always entertaining. Many of us have started our own families now. And some of us live far away, so we are not able to fill our spot on the stairs for the yearly family picture (I’m still in mourning about this). But folks in my family are always there for one another. For this, I am thankful.
8. I am thankful for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. They have loved me and supported me in so many ways since we first met in freezing-cold Wisconsin eight years ago. They set a great example for their grandchildren by using their talents for the glory of God. And they have officially gotten me hooked on Disney World.
9. I am thankful for my brother-in-law. Who else would be crazy enough to climb the foothills of Aoraki/Mount Cook with me at such a ridiculously rapid pace?
10. I am thankful for the churches I have served in through the years. I think of my years at Bellview, Hunter Street, Flint Hill, New Beginnings, and now my time at Owaka Grace Fellowship, and I remember all the wonderful people in each of these churches who have made such an impact on my life. I hope and pray that, despite my many weaknesses and failures, I have been a faithful shepherd of the portions of God’s flock that he has temporarily entrusted to my care.
11. I am thankful for my call to pastoral ministry. How grateful I am that God summoned and gifted me, an obviously plain man, to proclaim the excellencies of the one who called me out of darkness and into the marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). While there is in our day no shortage of “philosophies of ministry,” I appreciate John Calvin’s approach. In his commentary on 1 Timothy, Calvin writes: “Men often set before them some other aim than to approve themselves to Christ; many seek applause for their cleverness, eloquence or profound knowledge, and that is why they pay less attention to the basic necessities which are apt to produce less popular admiration. But Paul tells Timothy to be content with this one thing, that he should be a faithful minister of Christ. And we should certainly regard this as a far more honourable title than being called a thousand times over seraphic and subtle doctors. Let us remember therefore that it is the greatest honour than can befall a godly pastor to be accounted a good servant of Christ, so that during his whole ministry this should be his only aim.”
12. I am thankful for the professors who have trained me for ministry. I think especially of Beeson Divinity School, and the world-class academics/front-line churchmen and churchwomen who taught me so much. My three years at Beeson were some of the best years of my life thus far. I also think of the University of Otago, and my superb supervisor, who has influenced me tremendously.
13. I am thankful for my colleagues in ministry. For friends ministering in the name of Christ Jesus all over the world, I am thankful. I thank you especially for your prayers and the encouraging words you send my way from time to time. Continue to hold me accountable. I will do the same for you.
(Note from the Narrator: At this point in the post, a terrible case of writer’s block set in, and Dillon could no longer think of serious things for which he is thankful. But he simply could not allow himself to make a list of thirteen items. There are two reasons for this. First, the number thirteen is considered by many to be an unlucky number. Dillon does not really believe in luck, but, as he is getting older now, he figured it was not a risk worth taking. Second, Dillon has obsessive-compusive disorder, and odd numbers make him uneasy. Thus, the list continues, but without the sincerity that characterizes the first part above.)
14. I am thankful for our adventures in New Zealand. New Zealand is a beautiful country. The grass is always green. The water is always blue. You can surf and snow ski in the same day. There is no traffic. There are no snakes. And there are more sheep than people. What more could a guy ask for?
15. I am thankful for the sun. I suppose I’ve always been thankful for that great big ball of heat in the sky, but I am much, much more thankful for it now that I live in New Zealand. When the sun is shining in the winter, you see, the temperature in our house rises to a blistering 55 degrees fahrenheit, which is so warm that I can’t even see my breath when I exhale. Aidan is always deeply bothered when this happens. He usually cries out, “Dad, where did your smoke go?”
16. I am thankful for central heating. The central heating I once had. See # 15.
17. I am thankful for coffee. According to my latest tally, I’ve had 1,092 cups since I started working on my doctoral thesis. Coffee is my lifeblood. Tea is fine, and I’ve tried to start drinking more of it since we moved to New Zealand. But coffee… well… it completes me.
18. I am thankful for Johnny Cash. I once read his autobiography, Cash, and I have been hooked on his music ever since. He’s the only guy I know who can follow a song about a drunken Native American with a song about the crucifixion and get away with it. Read the autobiography and you’ll understand.
19. I am thankful for Netflix. The watch instantly feature is the best invention since sliced bread. It’s television shows with no commercials and no waiting until next week to see what’s going to happen. It gives you the chance to get caught up on all the old shows you never got to watch when they first aired. Like Arrested Development. How did I miss this show the first time around? Never again will I be able to keep a straight face when someone calls me a chicken.
20. I am thankful for Felonious Gru. If you don’t know Gru, he’s the main character in Despicable Me and in Despicable Me 2. Steve Carell does the voice, and he’s hilarious. He has a Russian accent (even though, according to an interview, he comes from Albuquerque, New Mexico), is the adoptive father of Margo, Edith, and Agnes, and the current boss of the Minions. He has been given a knighthood, once had his own cooking show, and can hold his breath for thirty seconds. Both my boys love the character, and pretty much everything about the films. And even if my boys didn’t love the films, I would probably still watch them. You’re never too old to laugh at a Russian with a long nose.
(Note from the Narrator: I warned you.)