Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

January 4, 2004


Try counting your blessings instead of making New Year resolutions


            As the year 2003 ended, I was busy jotting down New Year resolutions for 2004. I gave up on the idea when, out of the blue, my wife said, “I don’t like New Year resolutions; do you?”

            “No,” I replied slowly, “I usually break them within a week, so why bother.”

            With the resolutions plan shot down in flames, I pondered the question, what would be better than making New Year resolutions?

            I remembered a sign in a churchyard that read “Can’t sleep? Count your blessings instead of counting sheep.”

            The idea grabbed me. Making resolutions usually results in guilt. Counting your blessings leads to gratitude. I will count my blessings and invite my readers to do the same.

            Life itself is at the top of my list. I am alive. I can think, plan, love, move, celebrate, and work. In a world torn by daily violence, life is precious. Earthquakes have killed more than forty thousand people in Iran recently. American soldiers are dying almost daily in Iraq, while we enjoyed Christmas in peace.

            My age matters little. I am thankful for my life. How long it will last, I do not know. I will be thankful for it until my last breath.

            I have a wife who loves me, warts and all. Dean is understanding, patient, and forgiving far beyond my deserving. I am constantly amazed at her capacity to look beyond my weaknesses and love me anyway.

            The early years of our marriage were stormy, mainly because of my stubbornness, impatience, and self-centeredness. Fortunately, we held on, made many new contracts with each other, and persevered until a strong and lasting union developed. Fifty-one years ago, I never dreamed marriage could be as sweet as it is now.

            I have survived sorrow. Some people do not. I have known people who lived in perpetual sadness, unable to break the chains of grief. I am thankful that, somehow, the joy of the morning overcame the sadness of the night in our lives. Though death robbed us of our firstborn, who died at age three, we moved beyond the shadows of that sadness.

            I have children who love me and respect me. I treasure that blessing. I know people whose children consider them trash. Two men met me at a funeral home. They bluntly made their request.

            “Our mother was a drunk,” they said heartlessly. “We wanted to bury her without a funeral service, but the funeral director refused. We want you to say whatever you have to say, as little as possible, so we can put her in the ground and get back to our jobs.”

            I knew the woman. She was a member of my congregation. I had visited her more than once. She was indeed a pitiful alcoholic, discarded in her last years by both family and friends. Despite that, she still deserved to be loved, not despised.

            I honored the request of her sons. The service lasted barely eight minutes. Funerals, after all, are for the living. Flowery eulogies do nothing for the deceased. To this day I remain embarrassed by the Pharisaical attitude of two men whose pride was more important than loving the mother who had given them birth.

            If I were to make a wish today, I would wish for the continued love and respect of my sons, even though there is no way I can hope to live perfectly for the rest of my days. I will always be in need of the grace of forgiveness.

            I have twelve grandchildren and five great grandchildren who add joy to my life. Their gifts at Christmas are not expensive but they are precious to me. I do love to hear the little ones say, “I love you Grampa.” Though my hearing is diminished, those words resound in my ears, and in my heart. I love to see them come to see us, and I love to see them leave to go home.

            I have friends. My things mean far less to me than my friends. Friends are the people who do not stick out a hand to shake but always extend both arms to give me a bear hug. Houses and possessions are fine; friends are priceless. Losing a friend feels like losing a part of my soul.

            I live in a country that is blessed with freedom. I have traveled around the world, visited many nations, met many wonderful people, but I would rather live in Alabama than any other place on earth. Here in Elmore County where I was born, my heart is at home.

            One final blessing must be shared. I know that there is a God and that he loves me, despite my sins. I can bow my head and say “Father” when I pray.  I know that this God revealed his love for me, and for the whole world, by sending his Son Jesus to die on the cross so that all who believe in him may be saved from their sins. I am thankful that I am, by God’s grace, a Christian, though not a perfect one.

            I have a few resolutions in my mind and in my heart. They are likely much like your own.

            What is truly important to me at the beginning of this New Year is this: I am blessed and deeply thankful for my blessings. I count them with joy.

            Do count your own, and may your counting last far into the night! + + + +