On Thursday, Nov. 22, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a unique holiday because it does not celebrate a specific event or person. Although it has historical roots, it doesn’t center on a historical event. The focus of Thanksgiving is to call people to reflect upon their lives and give thanks to God for the blessing they enjoy.
When I was growing up in church, we often sang the hymn, “Count Your Blessing”, at this time of the year. The words of that hymn were written by Johnson Oatman Jr. in 1897 and the tune was composed by Edwin O. Excell. Oatman was a layman who worked in a mercantile business and managed a large insurance company. He was also a licensed Methodist Preacher. He wrote over 5,000 hymn texts including “Higher Ground” and “No, Not One”. His counterpart, Excell, was a singing teacher. He traveled around the country establishing singing schools. He managed a successful music publishing business. He wrote and composed more than 2,000 gospel songs and published 50 songbooks. Their hymn “Count Your Blessings” played a significant role in the Welsh revival. It was sung at every service. The chorus of this classic hymn states, “Count your blessing name them one by one; count your blessing see what God has done. Count your blessings name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.”
Our focus is too often on the negative things happening in our lives. We spend too much time complaining and grumbling. The outcome is that we get dragged down in spirit. We begin to see life with a perpetual dark cloud hanging over head, like Eore from Winnie the Pooh. As followers of Christ, we need to be reminded that a negative attitude is not something that please God. The Bible tells us that we are to develop an attitude of gratitude. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
With these thoughts in mind let me be a catalyst to get you thinking about your many blessings.
- I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who left the splendors of heaven to walk this earth, to take my sins to the cross of Calvary and to offer me new life through him.
- I am thankful for the Holy Spirit we makes me uncomfortable at times, who reminds me of who I am in Christ, and who leads me (when I’m listening) into the paths of righteousness.
- I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who loves me beyond measure.
- I am thankful for my wife Suanne, who has been more than a partner in the ministry these past 30 years. She has been my friend, counselor, comforter, encourager, prompter, companion and soul mate.
- I am thankful for my three children, Jonathan, Adam, and Elizabeth. They have been a blessing in many ways and I would not trade them for anything.
- I am thankful for my unofficially adopted son, Osman, who has stretched me, challenged me and allowed me to see firsthand the transforming power of the gospel.
- I am thankful for the privilege of serving the same church for 25 years. During that time, I have had the privilege of seeing the Kingdom of God advanced through the lives of hundreds of people.
- I am thankful that in my ministry things have not always been easy or gone smoothly; because through these harder times I have grown stronger and deeper in our faith.
- I am thankful that I was born in America and that I get to live in Minnesota with its changing seasons and its wealth of environments, from farmland to wilderness.
- I am thankful for a heritage of faith from both my family and Suanne’s family.
- I am thankful to be alive during the most exciting, challenging and demanding time in human history.
FOR WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL?