Gardening

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,

Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

The hymn “Count Your Blessings” was written by Johnson Oatman Jr. Born April 21, 1856, in Lumberton, New Jersey, Oatman was not a gifted singer, but after attending seminary in pursuit of a calling to ministry, Oatman realized his gift: songwriting.

Oatman found it particularly satisfying that he was able to proclaim the Gospel in song. “No Not One” and “Higher Ground” were his two personal favorites.

“Count Your Blessings” was first published in 1897, but in the decades that followed, with the sinking of the Titanic, desperate working conditions in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic, global economic depressions, and so much suffering, this song was a great comfort to people in its day and in the decades that followed.

Evangelist Gipsy Smith said, “Men sing it, boys whistle it and women rock their babies to sleep to it.”

You may not have heard this song in the modern evangelical church, but in these difficult times, this song might be a good reminder to count our blessings, even in the midst of struggles and heartache.

The song was based on two Scriptures:

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).

“I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26 ESV).

This song, and these passages, were part of my farm table devotions this morning. Yes, I sit in my cabin at a rugged, rough-hewn farm table, praying and reading and studying God’s Word. It is a beautiful cool morning, hinting at the change of seasons. Sweaters are just around the corner. In no time, we will be lighting a fire in the wood stove, but not until a stubborn summer decides to let go.

What a blessing.

My in-laws, Wayne and Peggy, are a dear couple. Along with other health issues, they are now struggling with complications of COVID-19. It is difficult. But their love and care for each other is something to admire.

My beautiful bride, Jennifer, is there with them in Tennessee, caring for them as a loving daughter, an only child. As difficult as this is, God has provided and many are praying.

What a blessing.

On the homestead, our efforts are still producing amazing fresh food. The season of growing and harvest continues, even as the leaves are beginning to change. Much vitamin D, beautifully provided by God through sunlight, is availed to us on these hot afternoons. Our immune systems and the masterpiece design of creation provide much of what we need to combat sickness and disease.

I have learned that the closer I am to the pattern of God’s creation, following the rhythm of day and night, work and rest, along with healthy doses of good food, deep breaths, hearty laughter and joy in the midst of struggle, the better I find myself.

What a blessing.

And yet, life is but a mist. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes. He makes it clear in chapter 3:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

He later writes, “Death comes to us all.” That is true. Then he makes this point: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

What a blessing.

The more advanced mankind becomes, with technology and methodologies to press against the patterns of nature and nature’s God, ultimately it is all vanity. The pride of man.

Homesteading is humbling. The effort of flowing in the pattern of God’s creation opens the eyes to the beautiful sovereignty of a holy and merciful God.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.