One of my favorite movies, and I will confess to watching it at any time of the year, especially in mid-summer when the weather is hot, hot, hot, is “White Christmas.” You all know the movie. The producers went through the catalogue of Irving Berlin songs, created a flimsy story to weave them all together and created a classic.
One of my favorite songs in this film is “Count Your Blessings.”
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
This lyric has a powerful message and I have to think that when Mr. Berlin was writing it he thought back to his early days of struggle on the lower Eastside of New York City, living as an emigrant and just trying to get by day to day. In the midst of the life he was living at that time stopping to count his blessings had to seem a bit daunting. Daunting – but powerful.
Our recognition of our blessings is powerful. It sets for us a new course, one that before our recognition of those blessings was unknown to us.
When I was growing up our family would sometimes travel from Washington, D.C. out to West Texas where my great Aunt Leah lived. She still lived in the home where she grew up, in a little sleepy town with a then population of maybe several thousand. I loved my Aunt Leah, she was funny, she was loving, and she was profoundly insightful.
My Aunt Leah taught me a lot about prayer. She and my material grandfather were siblings and the children of a minister. I loved to listen to her stories and her thoughts and reflections about God. She taught me that God knows, always knows, what it is that we need. She said God knew that when she was sick she needed healing. God knew when she was grieving and God brought her comfort. God knew when she had decisions to make and God was right there with her answers. God always knew her needs and they were always met. To her they were met in abundance even though to many people it appeared that she had little. She told me that when she prayed, and she prayed often, as a matter of fact it seemed her very thoughts were always a prayer, she gave God thanksgiving and she counted her blessings. She thanked God for each and every thing she had in her life. Especially the people she loved. She just gave thanksgiving for her blessings when she prayed. Her faith was a profound example to me growing up.
My first Sunday school teacher growing up was a wonderful woman named Marguerite Wilson. She seemed like everyone’s grandmother. Miss Marguerite and her husband, Mr. George, were what we think of as pillars of the church. They gave of their time, their money and their love because God had blessed them so. They were among those people who, if the doors of the church were opened, they were there. What could they do? How could they help?
I kept in touch with Miss Marguerite throughout my growing up and when I was in high school my walk home took me within a block of her house. So, very often after school I would stop and visit. I never told her when I was coming, but she always would have cookies and milk ready for me.
One day, in the midst of a talk about life she mentioned to me how her daily routine always included counting her many blessings of life. She said it was really for her the deepest form of prayer. Then she through me a zinger, she said, “you know, Jefferson, God knows what we need, we just must remember to continually give thanksgiving.”
I was beginning to sense a pattern.
Too often we live our lives in our memory, in the past, or we live them in anticipation of what comes next, instead of living in this very rich and wonderful NOW moment. We can only recognize and experience God’s many blessings when we dwell in this NOW moment.
This is a beautiful time – this now moment that God has created and we are called to experience it completely and fully.
God has ordained THIS moment, God has anointed THIS moment. God has blessed us and it is in THIS moment that the fullness of God’s grace, love and blessing needs to be recognized by us. Recognized fully – experienced fully – that we may respond with thanksgiving. THIS moment with God is special and we want to experience it fully.
Some have said to me, but Pastor, you ask me to count my blessings and I don’t think I have any. You see, my body is racked with pain, my relationships are on the rocks, my check-book is anemic. You say to count my blessings and I hate my job, my boss hates me and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. And I say, yes, you do have blessings. Blessings on which to build your faith to seeing new possibility.
I read a wonderful quote, and I am sorry that it was written anonymously, but it says, “Until God opens the next door for you, praise him in the hallway. –That’s looking at our blessings.
Did you wake up this morning? Do you live in a country that is free? Does God love you? Did Christ die for you? Better yet, was Christ resurrected for you? These are blessings on which to build your faith. Your spiritual escrow account of faith to sustain you when it seems your personal world has been thrown off balance.
Have a challenge? Not sure what to do first? Count your blessings. Look for them deeply, reflectively. You are blessed because God is a God of blessings. God is in the blessing business.
If God had a business card it would read: “GOD. Blessing Business.”
God loves you, cares for you. Hurts when you hurt, rejoices when you rejoice and God counts YOU as a blessing. God counts YOU as a blessing. What do you think about that?
Counting your blessings is a mantra. Counting your blessings is a meditation. Counting your blessings is a powerful form of prayer and counting your blessings is a form of stewardship of the things that God has given to you.
This world is quick to see scarcity – but God’s world is a world of abundance.
One way to look at your blessings is to look and see how your prayers have been answered. As you do this, you see how God has touched your life. Seeing and thanking God for one small blessing reveals another and another and another. You are abundantly blessed, you may just not know it right now because you are looking in the wrong places.
Just as every individual raindrop is numbered by God it is the total of the raindrops that brings the rain that makes a difference. That grows the plants, that quenches our thirst. And so it is with our blessings. Each blessing is special, unique and a gift from God. But the recognition of the totality of our blessings, and how they touch our lives, are what really makes the difference.
Fall asleep counting your blessing and you will wake in the morning still counting your blessings. Funny how that works. Aunt Leah taught me that. Miss Marguerite taught me that.
Stopping in the midst of all that life has upon us to count our blessings is not a denial of what is happening in our lives. Sometimes we are sad and we need to feel that completely and let that play out. Sometimes we are in pain, that is real for us. Sometimes we grieve deeply and we must experience that grief fully, for that is the truth of how we feel. We do not deny that. But, in the midst of all that we feel, stopping to count our blessings helps us to move through whatever is going on in our lives reminding us that we have an advocate – the Christ. It helps us to travel through that journey to the other side, knowing that there IS another side. And that is important.
Count your blessings and you will be changed.
Think of a blessing. I’ll give you a moment. Now thank God for that single blessing. You are now well on you are way to seeing your life in a new and wonderful way.
We attract to ourselves what we think about – because that is what we are focusing upon. Focus on your blessings and see how your life begins to change. See the abundance of God moving and acting in your life. That is why we as the church love to give back. Because we have been blessed we are moved to share our gifts with God.
A young man named Israel Beline on the lower East-side of New York City, a refugee from the pogroms in Russian, would start to write songs under the name of Irving Berlin. His songs would be about possibility, hope, and blessings.
Count your blessings, for God loves you, walks with you, cares for you, and God counts YOU as a blessing.
(This is an excerpt from a sermon I preached on May 11. After the service a woman in the congregation told me it was Irving Berlins birthday. I hadn’t realized that. Happy Birthday Mr. Berlin.)
Rev. Jefferson Beeker
We live our lives one thought at a time. Let each of those thoughts really count for something wonderful.
Be prepared to change your thinking and change your life. Please join us each Sunday at 5:30 PM in our Social Hall at First Christian Church, North Hollywood, CA for our Contemporary Celebration and Praise service. Come as you are and enjoy an hour of great music from our wonderful band and singers, inspiring messages and good fellowship. Those things in life that you have been seeking have also been seeking you. Now is a good time to receive them. We will lift one another to live exciting, abundant new lives of possibility and purpose.
Also, join me on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8 PM for an hour of guided and silent meditation, reflection, affirmation and prayer. As always, we will share communion together. Everyone is welcome.
First Christian Church, North Hollywood, 4390 Colfax Avenue, Studio City, CA 91604. http://www.fccnh.org
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