Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 24, 2019
Time to count your blessings again
When someone asks me how I am doing, I sometimes reply, “I am blessed.” I picked that up from a good friend in Opelika. That was his constant answer, even when he was suffering from the cancer that took his life. He never complained or called attention to his pain. His simple response was his way of staying focused on his blessings instead of discussing his problems.
Thanksgiving Day reminds me once again that my friend had it right. Focus on your blessings. Refrain from constantly seeking pity for your troubles. Not because nobody wants to hear about them; true friends do care. The key word is “constantly.” If you will share your difficulties with only a few close friends, the rest of your time can be used to share hope and joy with the people around you. The truth is, most of us enjoy being around people who, despite their misfortunes, are positive and hopeful about the future. That attitude springs from the conviction that your blessings are much greater than your trials.
Many songs are stored in my memory bank but there is none better to sing at Thanksgiving than the one composed by Johnson Oatman Jr. titled “Count Your Blessings.” If you want help to overcome your burdens, then just start doing what Oatman invites us to do in his song:
Count your many blessings – name them one by one;
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done
Counting your blessings is a healthy exercise anytime of the year but especially helpful during the Thanksgiving season. To focus on your blessings will not make your problems go away but can enable you to walk away from self-pity. Positive thinking helps you overcome the depression brought on by your troubles. And that is good medicine for your soul.
When I begin counting my blessings I think of my family, especially my wife Dean. We met in the first grade at age six. She does not remember it but I am sure I overheard her tell the girl beside her, “I am going to marry that boy one day!” Well, even if she did not say it, I am so thankful that 14 years later she did walk down the aisle and become my wife. No man has ever been married to a more supportive and loving woman than Dean has been for me. Truth is, we had some rocky times but together we learned to “lean on Jesus” and found the grace to repent, forgive and grow. Through 67 plus years Dean has always been the strong one, weathering some storms that would have wrecked weaker souls.
My four sons and their families are precious blessings. In these sunset years, few things thrill me more than a phone call from one of them. Their love and concern for their mother and me means the world to us. We call their names in prayer during our morning devotions, asking the Lord to guard and guide each one in the ways of the Lord. And talk about joy! That’s what fills our hearts when one of our grandchildren calls to say, “How you doing Grampa and Grandma?”
I am thankful for our church. The people of the Saint James United Methodist Church have indulged my preaching for 16 years and only a few have slept through my sermons. Of course, whenever I see someone sleeping while I am preaching, I just assume they trust me and are not really bored. Preaching for me remains a great privilege; it has never been drudgery or duty. I don’t have to preach; I get to preach. At Saint James Dean and I have shared a rich fellowship with some of the finest disciples of Jesus I have ever known. They are our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our years at Saint James have been enriched by the privilege of serving Christ there alongside our son Steve, his wife Amy, their two sons Jake and Josh, and my brother Seth and his wife Pearl. Every pastor needs a brother like Seth. His support and encouragement have touched me deeply. After a worship service, when most of the people are walking out and making their way to lunch, my brother Seth, who sings in our choir, will stay long enough to hug me and say, “Good sermon brother!” What a brother! I reckon you can imagine how much it blesses me to have my brother and his wife cheering me on.
My list of blessings must include my two sisters, Neva Williams and Margie Flomer. God has blessed us with the precious gift of living in harmony with one another. I cherish our relationship with them and their families and praise God for giving me two sisters who love and serve the Lord. Together we often thank God for our sister Laurida, who departed this life more than 20 years ago, but left us with precious memories of the joy and courage that filled her heart.
Thanksgiving Day we will share a meal 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. I count it a rare blessing to enjoy a meal in the home where I grew up. For many years my parents hosted a Thanksgiving Day meal for our family. Some of my dearest memories were made at my mother’s table. In recent years Steve and Amy have hosted the Thanksgiving Day gathering now attended by about 100 family and friends. We will sit around many tables, talk of old times and lament the way things have changed. I am thankful that Steve and Amy continue the tradition of gathering at Papa’s place, now Steve’s place, for Thanksgiving.
The blessings I count are mostly people, not things. So many people have made a difference in my life, like Sunday School teachers and pastors who influenced my faith as a child, people who encouraged me to believe that God had a plan for my life. Most of the good things I have experienced happened because caring people 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 can hear them still cheering for me.
My list of blessings has to include the men with whom I share lunch almost every week. They are friends and fellow disciples of Jesus whose encouragement and love I need. In addition, I must thank God for the men and women who have met weekly in our home as a Life Group. Together we have studied God’s Word, shared a simple meal, prayed and encouraged one another. We have shared our struggles and, now and then, shed a few tears together. The love and friendship we have shared is one of the greatest treasures of my life.
As the season of Thanksgiving gives way to the onrushing Christmas season, do take time to count your blessings. Tell friends and family members how much you love them. Focus on your blessings. If the only food in your refrigerator is one quart of milk, instead of complaining, thank God the milk is not sour and think of someone you can share it with.
As you think of all God has done for you, remember this: He is not done blessing you! Give Him a chance and He will give you more blessings than you can count! And if you really want to enjoy a great life, ignore your troubles and start sharing your blessings with someone who has less than you do. + + +