Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 25, 2018
Count your many blessings
Thanksgiving Day reminds us that every day should be a day of thanksgiving. The attitude of gratitude need not be reserved for one Thursday in November. We have reasons to give thanks every morning.
One of my favorite old songs says it all: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” There are potholes in every highway, but when we encounter them, it helps to count your blessings and see what God has done.
As I count my blessings, I thank God for my country. It is not a perfect nation but I would rather live in the United States than any place on earth. I have visited places on five of the seven continents. The only two I have not set foot on are Australia and Antarctica. I have marveled at the beauty of many places but always came away thinking that there is no place like my home in Alabama. Of course we have work to do in America; it would be far more beautiful if we would allow brotherly love to overcome the hateful racism that plagues our land.
I thank the Lord for my body. While it is steadily growing old and feeble, it has served me well for 86 years. I try not to complain because God has promised me a new body when I have finished with this one. And while I am excited about going to heaven, I never wake up wanting to catch the next bus to the Holy City. I can hardly walk, I can’t hear thunder, and my eyesight is failing, but praise the Lord I still have my driver’s license!
I thank God for my soul. My faith convinces me that my soul is eternal. My body is temporary. The earliest Christian creed is my creed: Jesus is Lord! The way to victory in life is to surrender to Jesus. Serving Jesus has been my mission and it is, hands down, life’s greatest adventure. When we gathered in church for the funeral of our son David, we sang the hymn, “Jesus is all the world to me.” The words of that song sum up my testimony: “Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all, he is my strength from day to day, without him I would fall. When I am sad, to him I go, no other one can cheer me so; when I am sad, he makes me glad, he’s my friend.” And as another song puts it, “the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.” Every day “my way gets brighter” because of his grace!
I thank the Lord for my family. I have a wonderful wife who has put up with me for 66 years – and counting. I have four splendid sons whom I love dearly. And I love the wonderful women to whom they are married. These sons and their wives have given Dean and me 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. Each one is a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God and I marvel at the way God has gifted each of them. I want to be in their balcony and cheer them on to a life of meaning and joy.
I thank God for my friends. As the end of my earthy journey nears, I am more aware than ever before that friends are our greatest treasures. When I count my blessings, the affection, affirmation and respect of my dear friends come swiftly to mind. And daily I ask the Lord for the grace to be the kind of friend my friends need for me to be.
I thank God for memories. The bad ones I try to forget. The precious ones constantly bless me. Take for example this memory that Dean shared with me this week: She was pregnant with our first child at Christmas in 1952. We were visiting with my parents and Dean was physically uncomfortable. My father noticed her misery and pushed the sofa up closer to a roaring fire, then put a blanket around her shoulders. “Tears come in my eyes whenever I recall the discomfort of that cold night and your Dad’s gentleness,” Dean said. What makes that memory special is that Dad was not the gentlest of men! That night he was.
Our son Tim remembers especially one Christmas morning in Nashville when he and his three brothers received NFL sweat shirts, each one white with the logo of their favorite team on it. Tim’s team was the Los Angeles Rams. “We wore our NFL shirts outside and played in the snow,” Tim recalled. He was ten years old that Christmas. His recollection made me hope that all our sons have some precious memories of times we shared as a family when they were growing up.
I remember a night in Mobile when I invited our congregation to come together for an all-night prayer vigil. We started out at 7:00 o’clock with a covered dish supper and a good crowd. As the hours passed, the crowd dwindled. By midnight, we were down to less than a dozen. That made me more determined than ever to stay awake and keep on praying. But by three o’clock we were all sound asleep, even the pious preacher! Ah, how sweet the memories that make me eat humble pie!
Precious to me are the memories of Thanksgiving meals at my mother’s table. As the years went by, Mama loved to have the family gather for a sumptuous meal in her dining room. She prepared every dish imaginable, including toasted pecans, ambrosia and coconut cake. Pumpkin pies and sweet potato pies – because my brother Seth prefers the latter! These days our son Steve and his wife Amy host the Thanksgiving Day gathering which usually attracts 75 to 100 family members and friends.
If you woke up this morning with something to complain about, just make a note to fuss about that problem next Thursday at 1:15 a.m. Thanksgiving Day is past once again but the time to give thanks is any day you woke up. Give thanks – as long as you have breath! + + +