Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 20, 2016
Count your blessings
Those three words are from an old song I love. The chorus goes like this: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God has done; count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
The song was written by Johnson Oatman Jr., a Methodist preacher born in New Jersey in 1856. Oatman wrote more than 5,000 hymns during his 66 years. He was not known as a gifted singer or preacher but people still love singing some of his songs. He also composed “Higher Ground,” which is one of my all-time favorites.
I read somewhere that Oatman has a grandson who lives near the World Trade Center and that after the towers were destroyed on 9/11 many people in the area found comfort in singing his grandfather’s song, “Count Your Blessings.”
Thanksgiving Day reminds us to count our blessings. Despite the harsh drought in the south just now, it is a good thing to do in these lovely days when the leaves are falling again.
My list begins with my family. My parents influenced me to have faith in God. That led me as a young man into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His presence and influence in my life has meant the world to me. In my mid-twenties I determined to live as a servant of Jesus. Looking back now I realize that was the greatest decision of my life.
In his kindness God put a young woman in my life who at age 20 consented to become my wife. Dean has been my dearest companion for more than 64 years. Words cannot express the love and gratitude I feel for her willingness to love me despite my flaws and to help me make it through many dark nights. She has weathered storms that would have wrecked weaker souls.
God blessed our union with five sons. One is in heaven but the other four and their families mean the world to us. What a blessing to have a family that loves you “warts and all.”
I am thankful for my church. The people of Saint James United Methodist Church have endured my preaching for 13 years. Preaching is such a great privilege. I don’t have to preach; I get to preach! And in that congregation Dean and I share a rich fellowship with some of the finest disciples of Jesus I have ever known.
An extra blessing is having our son Steve and his family belong also to the Saint James family. Steve’s wife Amy and their sons Jake and Josh have shared our years of ministry at Saint James. It has meant so much to watch them grow in grace along with us.
I have many brothers in Christ but only 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, enjoying life with our two sisters Neva and Margie and sharing love for Auburn football.
My brother Seth is like our father in many ways, a man of sterling character. He and his wife Pearl are faithful members of Saint James and Seth even sings in the choir. Having them with us in the fellowship of believers is one of the blessings I gladly count.
Thursday dozens of our family members and friends will gather at Steve and Amy’s home for a meal. Together we will reminisce about the kindness of God and the blessings we have enjoyed in the past year. This is a good habit instilled in us by my parents.
My list of blessings includes the men with whom I have shared a weekly lunch for seven years. We meet not just to eat but to encourage and support one another. I treasure the friendship of these men and the difference they make in my life. Together we have discovered the wisdom of Solomon’s words in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (New Living Translation).
Days devoted to thanksgiving can help us. While we all have endued heartaches, and some wounds have not yet healed, we have also been blessed in many ways by the God who loves us. We shall be wise to put aside our grumbling and spend some time counting our many blessings.
Taking time to give thanks can help us find the strength to move forward. And if that is true, then we dare not fail to make room for thanksgiving in our hearts. That is the best way to make this national holiday a blessing. + + +