My grandmother lived with us for many of my childhood years. Through those years, she had a huge influence on my character and faith. As children will do, my sister and I sometimes fell into bouts of complaining - actually whining - about things. Inevitably, my grandmother would start singing, “Count Your Blessings.” At the time, it seemed incredibly annoying. We didn’t understand the meaning of the lyrics. The song was seriously out-of-date. And, frankly, we were enjoying our whining!
Many, many years later, the good people of South Bluff UMC loved to sing that same hymn. It was still seriously out-of-date. But I began to listen to the lyrics. As Cindi and I were in a time of discernment about our lifestyle, the whole topic of living in trust of God’s providence was on our hearts and minds. A lifestyle of gratitude for all that God had done for us was becoming a true aspiration. In that time, the witness that the people of South Bluff made to us was powerful. Almost all of them had decades more life experience than we did. All of them had lived through difficult times and suffered major loss. Quite a number were dealing with physical limitations, many painful. And yet, they could speak and sing of all the good things God had done for them. Their spirit of gratitude in the later stages of life witnessed to us at a much earlier stage of life.
Through the following years and congregations, people have continued to reinforce those lessons about living in gratitude. Through practice, Cindi and I learned that literally counting our blessings had real impact for us. In those moments when we became discouraged or began to envy what another had, we would enumerate all the good things God had provided us. Soon, that discouragement or envy would be replaced with a sense of well-being and gratitude. When we list all the good things God provides, we become very aware that God has been so good to us. Seeing who our children have grown to become, Cindi and I feel blessed to have served churches that surrounded them in love and strong faith as they were growing up. We celebrate that they both married wonderful, strong Christians. We love them as our own. And they love us as their own! With joy, we now watch as our grandchildren are growing up in homes filled with love and faith.
We feel so blessed to serve a church like Bethany. We love the sincere desire to grow closer to Christ and each other. We love the openness to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ even as we extend His love wider into the world. We love our amazing staff who are striving to help Bethany rebuild after COVID. (Can you believe 900 at Trunk or Treat?!) We love the joy you have in sharing Christ’s love in so many ways. The last few years have been hard for all of us. But God is holding the vision of a powerful future before us.
Thanksgiving began as a national day of gratitude for God’s providence. While some folks still remember this, many simply view it as a day of overindulgence which kicks off the holiday season. I hope and pray that Bethany will celebrate Thanksgiving as a reminder of all that God has lovingly shared with us in our nation, homes, communities and families. If you’re not feeling too grateful this year, you might try following my grandmother’s wisdom. Take a moment and, “Count your blessings. Name them, one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done.” You may find, as we do, that God has blessed you beyond all expectations.
Grace and Peace,