Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Count Your Blessings

During the Civil War in 1863, President Lincoln first proclaimed Thanksgiving an official national holiday.  It was to be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”.  In early history, the Pilgrims celebrated their “First Thanksgiving” in America after their first harvest in 1621.  Colonists regularly celebrated such thanksgiving for days at a time with prayer and praise to God for their many blessings, for the end of droughts, for bountiful harvests, as well as military victories in the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607. 

In my family, the week of Thanksgiving was the time when immediate and extended family came to share Thanksgiving together.  It was a time of great joy and anticipation awaiting the arrival of loved ones.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would fill the house and the longer they stayed the better!  We would huddle together and spend time sharing the happenings in our lives since the last Thanksgiving and stories of old would be shared with us kids.  As we reflected on times of the past, all could draw on the blessings we had from such times.  Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday because this was usually when we got to see most of the family.  They would come from the east and west coasts, Louisiana and around Texas.  Some would just stay the day or maybe through the weekend and the families from the east and west coasts would often stay as long as two weeks.  I cherished those times together and would always be sad to see them leave, knowing it would be another year before I would see them again. 

The last Thanksgiving we were all together was in 1992.  In the summer of 1993, we lost my grandmother, a cousin, and three of the great-aunts.  With the losses, all were home during that summer for funerals and time with the family.  My dad had been sick since 1986 and the losses and further health complications had an irreversible affect on his health and he ended up bedridden until his death in 1997.  Our house was always the gathering place where everyone always knew they would be “welcomed home”.  After Daddy’s health deterioration our Thanksgiving gatherings were never the same as the pain was palpable and the last gathering was when he died and everybody came home to bid him adieu.     

In our times of loss and changes, we have more reasons to be thankful for we have been so richly blessed in life with family and friends.  Even with their loss, we are still richer for having had them no matter how short the time.  Dr. David Jeremiah was talking about Thanksgiving this week and said “it is a time of reflecting, a time for rejoicing, a time for commitment, and a time for praise, and a time for sharing.  He said to “let this be a time that we truly are thankful and remember how blessed we are”.  It only makes sense that the longer we live, the more gratitude we should hold in our heart, for His blessings are heaped on us every single day.

With the passing of time, traditional observances have evolved into different celebrations to fill our day of Thanksgiving—our bountiful banquets, parades with balloons, floats, and marching bands, football games and extravagant halftime shows, cruises and travel to exotic places, marathons and 5K runs, and this year Thanksgiving will be another day dawning for everyone to shop the Christmas sales.  It seems we all are getting further away from Thanksgiving’s original intent of showing gratitude and not leaving us much time for reflecting, rejoicing, committing, praising, sharing, and remembering how richly God has blessed us.  

I pray that this Thanksgiving will be the very best you have ever experienced as you take time to reflect, rejoice, and praise Him for all He has richly blessed you with!   I asked Dwight to read this before I hit the “publish” button and he began humming and singing this very old hymn written in 1897 by Johnson Oatman, Jr. from 1Thessalonians 5:18.

Count Your Blessings
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

*Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.*

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

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