Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 23, 2014


Give thanks with a grateful heart


      Thanksgiving prompts me to think of an old song I have sung a thousand times in church. We don’t sing it much anymore. I guess it is too old fashioned. The name of the song is “Count Your Blessings.”

The songwriter, Johnson Oatman Jr, says we can overcome our burdens by simply doing this:

        Count your many blessings – name them one by one;

        And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done

        Oatman is right. To count your blessings is a healthy exercise anytime of the year. It is especially helpful during the Thanksgiving season. To focus on your blessings you must forget about your problems for a while. Positive thinking helps us overcome the depression brought on by our troubles. And that is good for the soul.

        When I begin counting my blessings I think of my family, especially my first lady. I am so grateful for the love and support of the gracious woman who has been my dearest companion for 62 years. She has weathered some storms that would have wrecked weaker souls.

Dean is the last of her tribe. No uncles or aunts remain; all her cousins are gone. On the other hand the descendants of my parents number more than one hundred. Some I know better than others. Some I hardly know at all. But I am thankful for the ones who are kind to me despite my flaws.

My sons and their families are among my dearest blessings. All of our boys are past 50 now and we are so blessed by their love and concern for us. We call their names in prayer every day.  

I am thankful for my church. The people of the Saint James United Methodist Church have allowed me to preach there for eleven years. Preaching for me is not drudgery or duty but a great privilege. I don’t have to preach; I get to preach each Sunday. My wife and I share a rich fellowship with some of the finest disciples of Jesus I have ever known.

One of our sons and his family worship at Saint James also. Steve and Amy, and their sons Jake and Josh, love Saint James as we do and it means so much to Mom and me to share church with them.

I have many brothers in Christ; I have one blood brother whose name is Seth Henry. He was named for his grandfathers. When I went off to college Seth was in the first grade so I did not know him well growing up. Since I retired we have become good friends, eating together frequently and sharing a love for Auburn football. Seth is a humble man of sterling character much like our father. We both admired dad because “his word was his bond,” and that is equally true of my brother Seth.

Seth and his wife Pearl began worshiping at Saint James a few years ago. Then one Sunday recently they surprised me by coming forward to join the church. Needless to say I was overcome with joy. Seth sings in our choir and often prays the offertory prayer in worship. There are no words to describe the blessing this has been to me – to have my brother and his wife  

in the Amen Corner cheering me on. Seth sings tenor but Mama does not sing bass.

Thursday we will share a Thanksgiving meal with several members of our family at the old home place where I was born. Steve and Amy live there now, having bought and remodeled the place after my parents died. It is always good to enjoy a meal in the home where I grew up. For most of my adult life my parents hosted a Thanksgiving Day meal for our family. Some of my dearest memories were made at my mother’s table. We will talk of old times and lament the way things have changed. I am thankful that Steve and Amy want to continue the tradition of gathering there at Thanksgiving.

When I count my blessings I think more about people than things. So many people have made a difference in my life. I am thankful for Sunday School teachers and pastors who influenced my faith as a child. I praise God for people who encouraged me to believe that God had a plan for my life. Most of the good things that happened in my life took place because of caring people who took an interest in me and opened doors of opportunity for me. Many of them are in heaven now and in a quiet moment I think I hear them cheering for me to do my best.

I am thankful for a number of men with whom I share lunch almost every week. These are friends and fellow disciples of Jesus whose encouragement and love mean the world to me. I am thankful for the 15 men and women who meet as a small group in our home on a regular basis. We study God’s Word. We break bread together. We pray together. We share our struggles and now then we shed a few tears together. The love and friendship we share is one of the greatest treasures of my life.

As the season of Thanksgiving gives way to the onrushing Christmas season we shall be wise to stop for a spell and count our blessings. It is indeed usually a surprise to realize what God has done for us. And as we mull that over we may think of something kind we can do for others – to express our gratitude to God.  + + +