"Counting Life's Blessings"

One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house was eating all my favorites at the kid’s table on the porch that was situated just off her kitchen. It was a sufficiently spacious, heated, and multi-purpose area for storage, washing clothes, and of course, served as the back entry point into the house. Kids could be as loud and rowdy as they wanted without disturbing the adults gathered in the dining room!

Thanksgiving at Aunt Brenda's

After eating, and when the dining table had been cleared, grandma would gather back at the main table to sit with family members (generally, females who were recovering from the clean up!). It was a time to snack on grapes from the fruit bowl and chat about many things. Most subjects were “above my pay grade” as a kid! But one topic for discussion gave me much delight and interest. It was the rehearsing how God had blessed us over the past year. Everyone could participate in this time of sharing!

I have been doing some reflecting these days just after our recent family gathering on Thanksgiving Day. Even though I like to think that I am thankful most every day for the many blessings God has sent my way, the truth is that I haven’t been as intentional as I want to be in specifically enumerating and recounting those blessings. I read about a blogger recently who was disciplined enough to make a daily list in her journal of every blessing she could think of during her quiet time. Now, that’s an example of intentionality! Her plan was to pass this list along to her family as a written testimony of God’s goodness to her. Can you imagine what a blessing those journal entries were to each family member who would read down her blessing list?

“Count Your Blessings,” written by Johnson Oatman, has been one of the church’s most beloved hymns. In the refrain, it simply invites believers to intentionally engage in the practice of mindfully reflecting upon, considering, and rehearsing the many blessings that God brings our way daily. One encouraging nugget in such an exercise is noted in the last phrase, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

There are plenty of burdens to bear, cares to worry over, and challenges that attempt to defeat us in this life! But what a contrast it is to set a list of God’s blessings against every joy-sapping discouragement that enters our minds! We need the surprise and release of what God can do, and more importantly, is doing to give our lives a boost and our attitudes a much-needed adjustment! The Psalmist describes this as the Shepherds work of “restoring our souls and replenishing our spirits!” (Psalm 23:2).

I read a familiar Bible passage before our Thanksgiving meal last Thursday. It was Paul’s counsel to the church of the Thessalonians. He made this appeal to them, “Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I found that the footnote in The Passion Translation offered some additional explanation and helpful encouragement. It read, “Verses 16-18 identify three areas our lives must focus on: (1) unbounded joy, (2) praying continually, and (3) giving thanks to God no matter what happens in our lives. These three virtues combine to form the wonderful expression of Christ’s life within us.”

Paul’s memorable affirmation to another church summarizes what “Christ’s life within us” means to me, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Colossians 1:27). I trust that your Thanksgiving gathering was a blessing to you. Let’s plan to be more intentional each day in counting those many blessings that God brings our way! God’s blessings and hope to you and your family!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

 

 

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