Count your blessings instead of your crosses; Count your gains instead of your losses. Count your joys instead of your woes; Count your friends instead of your foes. Count your smiles instead of your tears; Count your courage instead of your fears. Count your full years instead of your lean; Count your kind deeds instead of your mean. Count your health instead of your wealth; Count on God instead of yourself.
– “Thanksgiving Observance” (Author Unknown)
Well, we’ve made it to another November, and we all know what that means: time to focus our minds on our blessings. That way we can know what to say we’re thankful for at the annual family feast on the fourth Thursday of November…only to turn around and forget about those same blessings come the fourth Friday! Right? Okay, hopefully this isn’t the case. While Thanksgiving (the holiday) only comes around once a year, thanksgiving (the mindset) should come around daily in the life of a Christian. Like anything else in life, though, this is easier said than done. Thanksgiving must be practiced in order to become a habit.
We often hear the term “count your blessings”. It is the name of a popular hymn, it is referenced in the poem above, and many a parent can be heard saying it to their child who is throwing themselves a pity party. “Count your blessings” is sound advice, but I am afraid it is often given at the wrong time. Let’s say, for example, that your child is in a sour mood and complaining about his homework load. You might wish to chide him with a “count your blessings, son. Your life isn’t so bad as you’re making it out to be”. While your admonition is true, your child will most likely think to himself, “count my blessings? What blessings? Everything is going wrong for me!” This is because he’s never been in the practice of counting his blessings when he was in a good mood, and he certainly isn’t going to see clearly to begin counting them when he’s in a bad one! You see, counting your blessings should be a proactive habit, not a reactive one. We all must take note of what we are thankful for each and every day. Storing up thanksgiving on our best days will help us to recall our blessings on our worst days.
Do you want to be a more thankful person? Then you must start counting your blessings and storing up thankfulness. If you do this, you will be able to make a withdrawal “from the banks of thanks” even in the midst of trials. Today, we will learn how to practice making deposits and withdrawals of thankfulness into/from our thank banks.
Let’s learn how to make a “thanks” deposit…
In order to have an ample supply of money to take out of the bank when needed, there must be some input to one’s bank account. Similarly; in order to have an ample supply of thanks to recall from the thank bank when needed, there must be some input to one’s storehouse. If we fail to input money in our bank account, we will come up dry when the bills come due. Similarly; if we fail to input thanks in our thank bank, we will come up dry when trials arise.
Most people work at least five out of seven days a week toward making money to add to their bank account. By the time payday rolls around, they have racked up a significant amount of earnings that can be withdrawn as needed. How many people work at least five out of seven days a week on counting their blessings? If we all were intentional about doing such, imagine the stockpile of thanks that would be stored up for our disposal!
Every day, we encounter numerous blessings that we can easily take for granted. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Anyone can become a thankful person quite easily…if they first desire a thankful heart, then all they must do is employ a little bit of observation toward the good in their life. Here I will share examples of how we might observe our blessings on a daily basis.
When you wake in the morning, take notice of the blessings that greet you. Is there a warm sun shining on your face through the window? Do you have a spouse to snuggle up to? Are there warm covers encompassing your body? Do you hear birds singing outside? Are you capable of getting up out of bed without assistance?
When you get ready for the day, take notice of the blessings that greet you. Do you have warm running water to bathe in? Are there sweet-smelling soaps to lather up with? Do you have clothes with which to dress yourself? Are you able to enjoy some quiet during this time? Is there hair on your head to set in order?
When you go to work, take notice of the blessings that greet you. Are you making money while you’re on the clock? Do you have a boss and/or co-workers that treat you with care? Is there a friendly customer you enjoy serving? Do you have an easier job to perform than many others around the globe? Will you be relieved of your duties and head back to loved ones at an appointed time?
When you eat a meal, take notice of the blessings that greet you. Do you have clean dishes and silverware to eat with? Are there pleasant aromas and flavors to enjoy? Were you able to afford this food with the money you earn at your job? Is there enough to go around? Will your body use the nutrients you consume to serve your purposes?
When you take time for leisure, take notice of the blessings that greet you. Do you have family or friends with which to enjoy times of fun and fellowship? Is there a bit of cash flow in your bank account to spend on activities you enjoy? Are you free to choose how you spend your time off of work? Do you have the physical and mental capacity to learn new skills and try new things? Can you smile today?
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give careful observation to your blessings each day. Input thoughts, and pretty soon you will…
Is your wallet currently devoid of cash…empty? No matter! If you have been making regular bank deposits, then there will be plenty more where that came from to withdraw from your account. What about your condition…are you feeling empty? If you have been storing up thankfulness, then there will be plenty of inner joy to withdraw from your spirit to help you through troublesome days.
If we practice the art of counting our blessings in a proactive fashion – by observing the good around us every day – we will have the surplus of thanks we need to draw from in difficult times, when it seems that all is wrong in our world.
When you wake in the morning, maybe there appear to be no blessings in sight. Perhaps instead of warm sunshine, there’s a cold draft coming in the window. Perhaps instead of the closeness of a spouse, you feel the absence of one…due to singleness, distance, abandonment, or widowhood. Perhaps instead of being surrounded by warm covers, you wake up in a cold hospital bed. Perhaps instead of waking to birdsong, you wake up to a fussy baby. Perhaps instead of physical independence, you are hobbling around on crutches.
When you get ready for the day, maybe there appear to be no blessings in sight. Perhaps instead of enjoying a warm bath, you are met with the realization that somebody used up all of the hot water. Perhaps instead of lathering up with soap, you become irritated that the last bit of product was used up without replacement. Perhaps instead of having your own clothes to dress in, you are stuck wearing Aunt Ruth’s oversized blouse because your suitcase got left behind on the family trip. Perhaps instead of enjoying quiet time, you hear your child continually knocking at the restroom door with requests. Perhaps instead of having hair to style, you have lost every last strand due to cancer.
When you go to work, maybe there appear to be no blessings in sight. Perhaps instead of making money, you have been coerced into assisting that one needy coworker while you’re off duty yet again. Perhaps instead of having a caring boss and coworkers, you are part of a toxic work environment. Perhaps instead of helping out a friendly customer, you are taking complaints from a demanding one. Perhaps instead of an easy job, yours is a strenuous position with little fulfillment. Perhaps instead of getting off the clock at an appointed time, you feel the stress of being on call 24/7.
When you eat a meal, maybe there appear to be no blessings in sight. Perhaps instead of eating off of clean dishes and silverware, you are using paper plates and plastic silverware due to a broken water valve. Perhaps instead of enjoying good aromas and flavors, you are sitting down to a burnt meal because you forgot to set the oven timer. Perhaps instead of earning money from your job to feed the family, you are collecting government benefits for your needs because of forced unemployment. Perhaps instead of having enough to go around, you are rationing in order to make ends meet. Perhaps instead of consuming nutrients, your body is stuck with junk food because it’s all you can afford presently.
When you take time for leisure, maybe there appear to be no blessings in sight. Perhaps instead of enjoying fun and fellowship with family and friends, you are at home feeling intense loneliness. Perhaps instead of enjoying hobbies with your extra cash flow, the bills in the back of your mind keep you from having a guilt-free experience. Perhaps instead of having the freedom to choose your own activities, your heavy work schedule confines you to limited avenues of recreation. Perhaps instead of having the capacity to learn new things, you have a physical or mental disability that holds you back. Perhaps instead of smiling, you can’t seem to stop the tears from flowing.
There are many trials we can endure in this life, varying from minor inconveniences to life-altering catastrophes. Whatever the size of the problem, the question is this: will it have the power to destroy you and send you spiraling into the depths of despair? Certainly not if you have been accustomed to counting your blessings. For one thing, you will realize that your present situation is not the way it has always been for you in the past….in fact, many of these misfortunes are temporary, fixable, and will become a distant memory in the future. Furthermore, even though one aspect of your life may be troubling you (however big or small) you recognize that for every one problem, there are about a hundred other blessings surrounding you that you can fix your gaze upon.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things… – Psalm 103:2-5a
Do you have an active thank bank? That is, are you storing up thankfulness in your times of somatic, soullish, and spiritual plenty (good days) so that you will be able to make a withdrawal in times of famine (bad days)? It’s easy to open up an account…all you have to do is start counting your blessings, and save, save, save. Input the thoughts and you will output the thanks. May Thanksgiving be more than a day on a calendar for us – may it be a way of life that we practice daily. Let us take note of all that is good in our daily lives, so that even when everything seems like it’s falling apart, we can draw our strength from the banks of thanks.
The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings. – Henry Ward Beecher
For God’s glory, Mrs. Dustin Bolks
Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.
It’s the same old story, yeah Everywhere I go, I get slandered, libeled, I hear words I never heard in the Bible And I’m one step ahead of the shoe shine Two steps away from the county line Just trying to keep my customers satisfied, Satisfied.
– Excerpt from “Keep the Customers Satisfied” by Simon & Garfunkel
What a chorus. One almost has to wonder if Art and Paul ever worked in the restaurant business before finding their voices! As someone who has worked in food service for over a decade, I know that “keeping the customers satisfied” is not always an easy job. I work for a wonderful company that treats me like gold, and the majority of our clientele are nothing short of a pleasure to serve. Still, I am no stranger to the occasional “entitled and unbridled” guest. After all, hard-to-please individuals are everywhere…they shop at every store, dine at every restaurant, and pay for every service known to man. It is an unpleasant yet inevitable truth that on some days these individuals will find their way to my place of employment, with a bad attitude in tow, and I must attempt to serve them with as much kindness as I would any other guest. This is my duty both as a Christian and as an employee. It’s a challenging task some days, I tell you…but not insurmountable.
I had a run-in recently with a couple of particularly difficult humans, and their less-than-stellar attitudes became an inspiration for this month’s blog topic. Allow me to introduce you to two very entitled and unbridled individuals…
The first, I will call “Timekeeping Tom”. The second has earned the title “Mashed Potato Myrtle”…
Upon arrival at work one day, my gaze fell upon a man seated at a table, wearing a scowl on his face. “Uh-oh, somebody’s not happy”, I thought to myself. As I clocked in, this crabby man marched up to my cash register to retrieve an order he had been waiting for. I went to the back to check on the status of his order, whereupon I was greeted with the last news I wanted to relay to him: the kitchen staff had made a mistake with it! I was doomed. I was given some good news, however: his order had been remade and was already only a few minutes away from completion. With inward trepidation but outward resolve, I returned to the man at the register and politely explained the mistake. I assured him that it would only be about four minutes longer and the order would be in his hands. (Notice I said “about” four minutes…I have learned not to make any promises I can’t keep!) Exactly four minutes later, as I was in the middle of helping another guest, the man got up from his table and marched up to my register again. He began belligerently and repeatedly tapping at his wrist, saying, “It’s been FOUR minutes! WHERE is my order?!” When I was through helping the other guest, I asked Mr. Timekeeping Tom to kindly wait a moment for me to get it. In the short amount of time it took for me to return with his order, he had sat back down at his table, wearing a bigger scowl than before. When I presented his order to him, he took one sidelong glance at it and roared, “IT’S BURNT!” (It wasn’t burnt) Not one to be easily moved by theatrics, I calmly explained the options we had for resolving his (perceived) problem. He opted to keep his “burnt” order, all the while mumbling about our “horrible” service, “horrible” food, and how next time he would be taking his business elsewhere. (I must admit that I’m not too disappointed on this last bit) Though I thanked him for his patronage, he never once thanked me for my service…which had no lack of kindness in the face of his dramatic outbursts. Pretty rude, Tom…pretty rude.
In addition to our out-the-door orders, my place of employment also offers a buffet. One day, in the middle of a particularly busy rush, I looked over at the buffet to see a woman staring at the buffet table with a grimace. In an attempt to please the woman by offering my assistance before she could offer her complaint, I approached her and pleasantly asked if there was anything I could help her with. Evidently this was not a woman to be won over by mild manners, for she churlishly announced: “YOU’RE OUT OF MASHED POTATOES!!” I smiled and said, “Allow me to check how much longer those will be,” adding with a wink, “just ask and you shall receive, Ma’am”. I proceeded to the back and asked the kitchen staff how much longer until we would have more mashed potatoes out on the buffet. The fellow in charge of this immediately began filling a container with freshly prepared potatoes and told me he’d be right out with them in under a minute. I returned to the buffet with this positive news, which, for all intents and purposes, should have overjoyed Miss Mashed Potato Myrtle. Presumably, she would have thanked me and waited patiently for 60 seconds; instead, she deepened her frown, spun on her heel, and marched back to her table in a huff. I never saw her come back up to get any mashed potatoes, which were out on the buffet in under a minute, as quoted. Perhaps the all-important mashed potatoes were not as coveted as she once thought? Let’s hope Myrtle got enough to eat that fateful night.
When dealing with unreasonable people, I have often wondered to myself how a person can become so entitled and unbridled that the smallest inconvenience sets them to ranting and raving. Waiting four minutes for a dine-in order, or one minute for some buffet mashed potatoes is – dare I say it – not the end of the world. Sometimes I imagine what I would say to entitled and unbridled people, if I was not under a restaurant’s code of conduct and had the authority to do so. These are some things I might say to give perspective of how small these problems really are in the grand scheme of life:
To Timekeeping Tom:
“Tom, how can it be that your patience has reached its end in only four minutes of waiting for a corrected order? If such a minor wait has rocked your world, what would you become in the face of greater adversity?
You could be waiting to find out if your wife’s cancer is terminal.
You could be waiting for the judge’s final say on a crime you didn’t commit.
You could be waiting to hear if the police have found your child who has been abducted.
You could be waiting to see if your company department will be outsourced.
You could be waiting in line at a soup kitchen for the homeless.
Please have some perspective, for your sake and mine. It shows how blessed you really are if a four minute wait on a messed-up order is the worst thing to happen to you this day. Galatians 5:22 tells us that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is…patience’. Rather than allowing yourself to become entitled and unbridled, why don’t you let this small inconvenience aid you in becoming a more patient person.”
To Mashed Potato Myrtle:
“Myrtle, how can it be that you have become so discontented at one item being temporarily unavailable to you, when dozens of others are available for your consumption? If such a minor outage has rocked your world, what would you become in the face of greater adversity?
You could be out of a marriage because your husband runs off with another woman.
You could be out of food living in a communist country.
You could be out of water in the scorching desert sun.
You could be out of medicine when your child has an asthma attack.
You could be out of a home after a fire burns it to the ground.
I believe a perspective shift is in order. Is it not a blessing that the only thing you are out of is mashed potatoes, and there’s more on the way at that? 1 Timothy 6:8 says that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content”. I can see that you are covered in nice clothing, and you are dining at an all you can eat buffet. Instead of being entitled and unbridled by focusing on the one item you don’t have, why don’t you focus on all that you do have.”
Yes, these are the things I wish I could say. And while I may not be able to say these things as a guest service representative, I can share this message with you. I can remind you to always look at the big picture in the face of miniature trials. Our petty annoyances are not matters of life or death. Now, the world is known to have intolerable and insufferable behavior (lost people have lost ways), but let us who claim the name of Christ never allow ourselves to become entitled and unbridled. Those of us who are in Him ought to be the most patient and content customers to ever enter the business world. May there be no Timekeeping Tom’s or Mashed Potato Myrtle’s among God’s kingdom!
He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones. – Proverbs 14:29-30
For God’s glory, Mrs. Dustin Bolks
Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.