Posts Tagged ‘Thankfulness’

thankitforwardWhen my professional colleagues at The Community Roundtable started posting their “Thank It Forward” posts recently, thereby recognizing three specific people or groups that have made a difference in their lives this year, I knew I wanted to do the same. So it’s taken me a while to think through it and come up with this post. My three who have had the greatest impact on me this year are from all parts of my life, so it’s an unlikely trio, but a meaningful one to me.

The first person I want to thank for his impact on me this year is my new pastor, Mark Williams. I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am to have this man as my pastor. He is a kind, loving, gracious soul who is profoundly committed to proclaiming the Word of God and calling others to a life of faithful service to Christ. He is wise far beyond his 31 years with a wisdom that can only come from the Spirit of God within. When he preaches, you know you are hearing the truth of the gospel. He is not out to impress others or dictate to others or to draw attention to himself. He is a servant of his Lord and an incredibly gifted and faithful proclaimer of truth.

It is important to me that I deeply respect my pastor. Life has been a bit out of whack in times past when there has been some tension between a pastor and me. That’s not a good situation and not one I care to repeat. I respect the role of pastor and want the relationship to reflect that respect. Mark makes it easy for me to do that because we are united around a common purpose and cause and desire. I would be quite content to learn from this man for the rest of my days on this earth. He makes me want to be a better person in general and a better Christian in particular. I know my own relationship with Christ ought to produce those same desires and it does, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a key person in the flesh that draws you in that direction as well. I thank God for Mark Williams and look forward to his continued influence on me, our church and our community.

The second person I want to thank is my bride of 35.5 years, Linda. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as she does. While her role as kitchen hostess at church and self-employed caterer is officially part-time, she sure does seem to be going at one or the other full-time. And if she isn’t absorbed in those activities, she’s gardening or doing yard work or something else – anything but resting (which she really ought to do more of). Anyone who knows us can tell you how different we are. That has always been the case. In fact, we lost some college “friends” when we got engaged in 1978 for that very reason. They worried that we were so different that it would never work for us to be married and they simply could not and would not give their blessing to it. Well, 35.5 years later, I would beg to differ with their assessment. That doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye or have no issues, but we’ve learned to keep the main things the main things and not elevate minor differences to a loftier level of attention than they deserve.

I want to thank Linda for loving me all these years, for continuing to do the less-than-glamorous things that come with managing a home and family, for forgiving me when I have been self-absorbed or downright thoughtless or mean or stupid, for being an absolute rock of faithfulness and consistency for the entire time I have known her from my sophomore year of college through the present, and for being the mother of our two sons and grandmother to the newest generation of Rosses. I cannot imagine life without her, and I am thankful now and forever for her.

The third person I want to call out in my #thankitforward this year is my manager at Humana, Lewis Bertolucci. Lewis took a chance in late 2011 by adding me to his Enterprise Social Media team at work when there were not originally plans to have that team own the internal social media function I manage so much as the external, customer-focused media. Lewis is a remarkable person who knows more about the field than I ever will. He can’t possibly sleep much and still juggle all the things he has his hands in. It’s no wonder he was included in a recent list of the top 100 digital marketing experts. Don’t even think about trying to match his Klout score!

There are so many things I appreciate about Lewis as my manager. He is open and honest and I can discuss whatever I need to discuss with him. He trusts me to do my work and has no inclination to micromanage me or others. He is funny and creative and will blindside you with a funny photoshopped picture or JibJab video and seems to have funny animated GIFs ready for all occasions to throw into online discussions. He keeps his cool in the midst of what I know are very stressful, demanding days at work. He thinks of others more than he thinks of himself. He can write out the best, thoughtful, reasoned response to situations where others would be tempted to respond quickly and emotionally. He gives wise counsel that others (including me) would do well to heed. He is supportive and encouraging to his team. And as is shown by the expanded role he offered me in August this year, he is eager to see those he supervises grow into their potential, even when that means they leave the team for other roles as some did in 2013. Like my pastor mentioned above who is in his early 30s, Lewis is also wise beyond his years and has earned the deep respect I have for him as a person and as a manager. I am fortunate to have him and hope to learn from him for many years to come.

So there you have the three people from different areas of my life who I am most thankful for in 2014.

I won’t end this post, though, without also recognizing the one professional organization that has also been very significant for me this year as well – The Community Roundtable. I have enjoyed being a member of this organization of online community professionals for several years, but this year the connection stepped up a notch when they graciously agreed to take over the reins of the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat which I started in 2013. They are doing a great job with the chat and will continue to innovate and do things with it that I as an individual could never do. I am deeply appreciative of their willingness to do this. I know the work involved in making it successful and worthwhile week after week. It is no small task. Thank you, Hillary Boucher, Rachel Happe, Shannon Abram, Jim Storer and all the wonderful people at TheCR! You do amazing work that is very much appreciated by many.

What about you? For whom would you #thankitforward for their impact on you in 2014?

Im-Not-Thankful-EnoughThis week has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. With the American Thanksgiving holiday yesterday, there have certainly been more than the usual number of moments reflecting on all for which I am thankful. But some of the week was dominated by other less-than-admirable emotions of anger, of disgust with what I was watching in the news, and of times when I spoke or wrote out of those emotions when I should have probably just kept my thoughts to myself.

What I should have demonstrated for the week was an ongoing attitude of gratitude. What I actually demonstrated was a far cry from that. I resonated immediately, therefore, with my friend, Jay’s, post on Facebook last night when he wrote, “I’m thankful, but not often enough. It’s good to have a day to be reminded.”

I really do have so much to be thankful for:

  • a family who loves me and whom I love;
  • my first grandson and second grandchild on the way, due in April;
  • a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood in a city we’ve enjoyed living in for almost 30 years;
  • a job and career that is fun and fulfilling and a joy to invest my time and professional life in daily;
  • all the food and necessities of life a man needs – so much more than what is typical throughout the world;
  • a country that in spite of its challenges is where I prefer to live;
  • good health that allows me to do what I want when and where I want;
  • a church and church family I have loved since our second week in Louisville in 1985;
  • a relationship with the living God that provides ultimate meaning, purpose and hope for this life and the next;
  • the opportunity to freely read, study and apply God’s Word to my life;
  • opportunities to serve God and others every week in a variety of ways;
  • and even the best canine friend and companion I’ve ever had in my nearly 58 years.

When I look at the above list, I am in awe at the blessings I enjoy. And I am simultaneously embarrassed by the times I allow an unhealthy focus on other matters to steal that joy. I am ashamed that I could for a moment look past these giant gifts only to focus elsewhere. I regret that I fail to be a consistent source of a good and encouraging word to others, choosing instead to sound off about my latest emotional reaction to news or events of the day. I feel remorse for getting angry at those with whom I disagree rather than seeking to understand and show the love of Christ in the midst of those differences. I realize after the fact far too often that I have failed to be Christ’s ambassador when I spew from my mouth the venom that I allow to fester in my heart, for “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34), and that overflow is too often sewage rather than life-giving water.

So on this day after Thanksgiving, please know that this ongoing work in progress called Jeff is truly grateful and thankful for so much. Also know that I am truly sorry for those moments when I am far less than what I can and should be. I am called to be conformed to His image, and I have a long, long way to go.

CalvaryI have intentionally saved for last in this series on thankfulness that for which I am most eternally thankful. It’s hard to rank the objects of my thankfulness and some may think that valuing one over the others is unnecessary. However, I place those involving relationships higher than others, and there is no more important relationship any of us can have than one with the Creator of the universe.

For those who know me and for anyone who has explored this blog much, it should come as no surprise that my Christian faith is important to me. That’s why I choose to clearly post a page here about what I believe. But for anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, faith is not just a set of beliefs – it is a relationship. It defines who we are, what values we hold, what priorities we ascribe to all of life’s concerns, how we live, and the worldview by which we see and interpret all that happens.

Christian faith is an affirmation of the truth of the Bible and all it teaches about God, humanity, sin, Christ, salvation, eternal life (or death) and much, much more. It is a reasoned and reasonable trust and confidence in the One who did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is a voluntary surrender of one’s will to the lordship of Christ.

It is impossible for me to imagine life without faith, nor would I want to do so. It is the core of who I am and why I exist, even though I fail miserably at living out that faith more often than I care to admit. Fortunately, my hope for the future and what comes after this life is not in myself or what I can do for God, but in what He has already done for me in Christ.

The Bible teaches that faith, itself, is a gift (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Thank you, God, for my faith and for being its source and focus.

I’m Thankful For My Health

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Attitude
Tags: , ,

healthEveryone experiences health issues from time to time – some more than others. I consider myself fortunate that I am rarely sick. Outside of a little cold now and then, it is highly unusual for me to have any health issues at all. At nearly 57 years old, I’m 5’10” tall and weigh 145 pounds. I don’t run as often as I used to, but I still walk at least five miles a day, jogging some from time to time. I’m on target to accomplish my health goals for this year and look forward to setting some different goals for 2014.

There have only been two health issues of concern since the year 2000: (1) a series of heart atrial fibrillations for about a decade (that ended overnight when I gave up my stressful PhD pursuit), and (2) melanoma in 2000 that was removed with no recurrence. Every annual checkup, blood test, and biometric exam yields great results. I’ve lived with the ringing in my ears for so many years now from tinnitus that I don’t even notice it unless I’m in a very quiet room. All in all, I won’t complain.

I have my parents and a very healthy family line to thank for good genes, and I’m grateful for that. Not everyone is as fortunate. My 79-year-old parents still go to the local YMCA nearly every day to work out on a treadmill for a while. They are both very active with Mom volunteering and taking care of a huge, old home while Dad takes care of their 60-acre farm. I think that’s awesome.

Having good health also requires taking reasonable care of myself – an ongoing goal that demands regular attention, even though I certainly enjoy the occasional decadent food choice that tastes oh, so good, and at times I test my luck with a too-busy schedule for too many days running. I track my calories daily and make sure I don’t overdo it. I’m more mindful now than ever of the value of recording everything I eat and drink to get familiar with what is healthy and what is terribly costly in terms of calories. It’s amazing how few calories healthy foods have compared to the poor choices of processed or fast foods. I am convinced that the single best thing anyone can do to really get a handle on losing or maintaining a desired weight is to record everything consumed and the caloric consequences. It’s very eye-opening.

I weigh myself every morning to make sure I am at or below my target weight of 145 pounds, and if I’m over it even by ounces I do not eat a meal until I can weigh in under the goal at some point in the day. I haven’t missed a daily weight goal since July, 2012, including the typical holidays where much is consumed. I made sure this past week that I entered Thanksgiving Day a couple of pounds below my goal so I could enjoy the foods of the day without weighing too much the next morning. I’m down about 25 pounds from my highest weight in the spring of 2012. Any weight I would gain would just go to my gut, so I have no interest in doing that. I have several daily vitamins and supplements I also take without fail.

Since wearing my Fitbit Flex in September, I have not had a single day without accumulating at least 10,000 steps, nor any seven-day period with less than 80,000 steps. I track my sleep to make sure I average at least six hours per night – more than any year in recent memory, although my body is telling me lately that it isn’t quite enough.

There is certainly more that I could be doing. I could be better about stretching, other regular exercises or weight training. I could run more often and will set a 2014 goal for that. I could space throughout the day what I eat rather than concentrate most of it in a single meal. I could get more sleep and will set a 2014 goal for that, too. Still, I’m happy with my health and with being able to do whatever I choose to do. I know I’m not the spring chicken I used to be, but I can’t expect that.

None of us are guaranteed another day in this life, so I won’t take anything for granted. I have joked a number of times that I have every intention of living to be 100 because I think it would be awesome to have that birthday party. Who knows if that will happen or not, but I’ll keep plugging away expecting it until I have a reason to think otherwise.

Good health is precious. I am thankful for others around me who promote it, for genes that contribute to it, for the desire to work at staying healthy, and for working at a company that offers constant healthy behavior incentives and rewards to encourage the right lifestyle. Every day of good health is a gift.

Thank you, God, for my health.

I’m Thankful For My Dog

Posted: November 30, 2013 in Attitude
Tags: , , ,
Callie, 2 months old, 5 pounds, June 2010

Callie, 2 months old, 5 pounds, June 2010

Those who know me well and those with whom I’m connected on Facebook are very familiar with my love for my dog, Callie. I’ve always been a dog person from as early as I can remember. Most of my nearly 57 years have seen a canine companion at my side.

When my previous dog, Bonnie, passed away, I promised my wife one full year of not having a dog just so we could experience all the seasons, travel and life experiences without the added responsibility of a dog for a year. We ended up going for two years before we found Callie. It was a long two years where I went every week without fail to a pet store or animal shelter to look at pups. It was on one of those weekly visits that we saw Callie in a bin with her more aggressive sibling. She fell asleep in minutes cuddled up with Linda, and I knew at that moment who our next companion would be. We’ve had her for 3.5 years now and she is a treasure.

always by me, if not always awake

always by me, if not always awake

Of all the dogs I’ve had in my life, I’ve never had one with whom I shared a relationship like I have with Callie. When I am home, we are inseparable (unless Linda is cooking in the kitchen, in which case Callie hangs around her in hopes of some food dropping on the floor). When I go from one room to the next, she goes with me – even to the bathroom. When I go to bed, she either lays on the floor by me or crawls under the bed below me and usually stays there until my alarm goes off. When I’m in my favorite recliner at the end of my sectional sofa in the basement, she is on the next section beside me or trying to get between my laptop and me.

No day is complete in her mind unless we throw the Frisbee in the back yard and take a long walk. It helps that I have a daily step goal of at least 10,000 steps (about five miles). Callie is guaranteed to get in 2-4 miles a day walking with me, depending on how many steps I need to reach 10,000 for the day. Her other favorite ritual is to have me chase her around the basement yelling, clapping my hands and roaring at her while she dashes in a big circle around the room. I hope the neighbors can’t hear me.

No return home is complete without Callie being at the door waiting for me and then nearly bursting out of her skin with excitement when I arrive. She goes nuts, whether I’m returning from a full day at work or a short shopping trip. It serves as the appropriate bookend to my leaving for work when she will sit at the door watching in stillness as I drive away until I’m out of sight. My wife tells me that Callie whimpers and whines if I go out into the yard or to the car to do something without her for a moment, disappearing for a while from her sight.


always ready for a walk or run

Callie is pretty good at obeying me. She quickly learned the basic commands and does them for me – come, give, sit, stay, down, up, get your ball/bone/chain/Frisbee, etc. – using either my spoken commands or hand motions. She may or may not perform when others give the commands. She’s a smart Border Collie, Labrador mix (a Borador) that we haven’t trained nearly as much as we could have. I had visions of using her as a therapy dog and she would be a sweet dog for that, but we didn’t train her enough to keep her as settled down and under control as a therapy dog would need to be visiting the sick or elderly. She is perfectly behaved around my 2-year-old granddaughter, although the wagging tail is about face-high to my granddaughter right now, but that will change soon.

From the first days of having her when she was two months old, I’ve intentionally tried to socialize her by walking her toward other people and dogs. She knows no stranger and is willing to befriend anyone or any dog unless they give her a reason not to do so. On those walks, she’ll gladly run with me for as long as I want to run as long as it’s not too hot outside – she doesn’t handle summer heat very well for long. Otherwise, she’ll walk with me for as long as I want to be out.

Some people let their dogs lick them and some don’t. I do, and Callie gives me more kisses in a day than probably all of my previous dogs did combined. If I’ve slept on my couch and am waking up, Callie hops up, lays down on my chest, puts one paw on either side of my head and kisses until I stop her. In that position she’ll also take one paw and gently stroke my face a few times which is sweet, but I have to stop that quickly for fear of a claw leaving its mark.


time to share some drive-through French fries

Callie is a trusting dog and would let me wash her, brush her, check out some injury or treat her if needed without putting up a fuss. The back seat of my PT Cruiser is covered with a dog hammock where she willingly rides whenever and wherever I ask, running to her door to jump in whenever I say “Let’s go for a ride.” We usually share a large order of French fries whenever we go through some fast food drive-through, but that isn’t too often for health and calorie reasons.

As I started writing this post, she was taking a nap beside me with one paw stretched out to touch me. Now she’s laying on my feet. Typical.

Not a day goes by that I don’t look at Callie and marvel at how a human and a dog – two incredibly different species – can not only coexist but actually have a genuine, deep, loving relationship with one another. That may sound freaky or weird to some, but to me it is an incredible joy and gift that brings happiness to every day in spite of the hassles of cleaning up after her, letting her out many times a day, vet bills and occasional sickness. Some days a nice hug and time with Callie is just what the doctor ordered for me to relieve some stress and make things right.

I don’t know if God plans on having dogs in heaven when he brings about his re-created heaven and earth the Bible speaks of at some point in the future. I don’t see why not since animals were a part of his perfect creation to start with. Why wouldn’t a perfect re-creation have them as well? If that’s the case, I know which of all my animals past and present I’d like to scamper around with for eternity – Callie. Whether or not that happens, I am incredibly thankful for the years we enjoy each other now. There is a reason why dogs are known as man’s best friend.

Thank you, God, for my dog.