All is Lost?
I was thinking...
The story is told that when John D. Rockefeller died, his accountant was asked, “How much did John D. leave?” The accountant’s reply? “All of it.” We came into the world with nothing. We will exit the world with nothing. Life’s meaning (or the lack thereof) is found in what we do with what we have in between birth and death.
I love the story told by Max Lucado in his book on the promise of Psalm 23 entitled Traveling Light. My wife, Sharon and I read this book aloud to each other several years ago as our time of devotional for a season. We found this experience to be encouraging, uplifting and beyond meaningful…It was something we needed in that season of our lives. We believe God used our reading aloud to each other to carry us in a season when we were having difficulty carrying ourselves. We commend that experience to you.
Lucado tells the story of a leper on the island of Tobago. A short term missionary met her on a mission trip. On the final day, he was leading worship in the leper colony. He asked if anyone had a favorite song. When he did, a woman turned around, and he saw the most disfigured face he’d ever seen. She had no ears and no nose. Her lips were gone. But she raised a fingerless hand and asked, “Could we sing ‘Count Your Blessings?”
The missionary worship leader started the song but couldn’t finish. Someone later commented, “I suppose you’ll never be able to sing that song again.” He answered, “No, I’ll sing it again. Just never in the same way.” (P.31-32)
Upon what am I focused? Upon what do I believe my satisfaction in life rests? When do I think my happiness will be discovered? I am guilty of relying upon stuff and people and the wrong foci to bring me to a place of gratitude. Whether it be my bank account; someone’s approval or chasing the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow…these are momentary flashes in life. I need reminding that I need to keep learning about and leaning upon that which really nourishes my soul.
Our nieces requested to have read at their mother’s Memorial Service recently Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (NRSV). The Today’s English translation resonates with me in a very clear and concise way, “My mind and my body may grow weak, but God is my strength; God is all I ever need.” This one piece of a Psalm offered them and all of us great hope amid COVID death.
In 1897 John Oatman wrote what has been regarded as one of the most popular gospel songs. E.O. Excell set the song to music. It rings with eternal truth, “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 what the Lord has 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. Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.” (A Hymn is Born, P.144)
I have sung that song for as long as I can remember. Singing it and living it can be two very different postures for me, maybe you too. Each time life throws a painful curve, I seem to understand what John Oatman meant in a deeper and more profound way. How are you doing with counting your blessings?
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop