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Count Your Many Blessings

It may seem to you like America has lost its way. The pilgrims must have had similar thoughts (but in a much more literal way) when they had to lower the sails on the Mayflower and go adrift at sea for a while. Despite all of their hardships, though, the pilgrims eventually reached Cape Cod and returned thanks to God for bringing them to a whole new world.

Hardship and tribulation can easily cause us to adopt a negative attitude towards life. So, during times of hardship I am often reminded of the old church hymn, "Count Your Many Blessings." The first stanza of that hymn says, "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."

What many people don't know about this hymn is that it was composed by a clergyman named Johnson Oatman Jr. in 1897. Rev. Oatman was a struggling preacher from New Jersey who never secured a full-time position in the ministry and he often questioned God's calling upon his life. However, at the late age of 36 he discovered his talent for hymn writing and he composed more than 500 hymns thereafter. Of course, his most famous hymn was "Count Your Many Blessings."

According to Rev. Oatman, the practice of counting our many blessings leads us to be surprised by "what the Lord hath done." Indeed, we often fail to acknowledge many of our true blessings. Sometimes, though, we never even get to see them, and such was the case for Rev. Oatman. Rev. Oatman did not live long enough to see the full impact of his hymn writing ability. Today the legacy of Rev. Oatman lives on through the many hymns that he wrote. These hymns continue to minister and bless thousands of Christians worldwide. Rev. Oatman died in 1922 in Norman, Oklahoma, but "Count Your Many Blessings" continues to be a favorite hymn sung in churches all across America, especially at Thanksgiving time.

William Bradford was the leader of the pilgrims, who would later become the Governor of the Plymouth Colony. On November 9, 1620 the crew of the Mayflower sighted land at Cape Cod and finally came to shore. The joy of that moment overwhelmed the pilgrims, causing William Bradford to record it for their posterity. Bradford wrote: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof."

I share these things with you today in order to encourage you to count your many blessings this year at Thanksgiving time. While we make it a point to return thanks every year at Thanksgiving time, thanksgiving is really something that should be done each and every day. Thankful people tend to have a much better outlook on life. They are happier and more content. Therefore, I would like to wish for you and your family to have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving this year.


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