The church of my youth was filled with hymns. We occasionally snuck in a spiritual song (There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit) but we mainly stuck to our guns. We were a people of the Good Book and the Hymn Book. When it came to music although our spirit professed equality for every song, our flesh was weak and we tended to cycle through a select group, sorta like spending all your time only reading the Gospels. Among our red-letter hymns was Count Your Blessings, more commonly known as Count Your Many Blessings. If this hymn found its way into a Sunday evening sing-a-long you could bet your tithe the minister-of-music (remember them?) would say something like “Let’s sing a verse, then pause and have folks stand up and share a blessing, then we’ll sing the second verse and so on.” Everyone knew this was coming but it still caused widespread grins on the faces of my Baptist brethren and sistren, every time.
I confess I went through a season where I pooh-poohed such things; you know, the young disciple of deconstruction, shaking fist at the church and the hypocrisy and the shallowness and the tepid commitment, blah, bleh, blech. Some of that jiggy is necessary, throwing off your inhibitions and finding a faith of your own. And some of it is simply chomping at the bits to bark at any moon that rises. Nowadays I’d love to sing a verse of Count Your Blessings then stand up and count a few and hear the same from others.
There’s no way the poem below can be sung to the tune of Count Your Blessings; trust me, it won’t work, can’t even force it. But maybe the tune can serve as a backdrop as one man stands and grins and counts. You might just find yourself tempted to do the same.
Nowadays my knees ache and my eyes
require bifocals but all four of them still
work – hallelujah. I don’t turn young
girls’ heads anymore, which in begrudging
honesty is a huge blessing as each day has
trouble enough of its own that’s for sure.
Nowadays I give little time to the
hemorrhage of news but I do shed tears
when I see a ragged old flag flapping in
the wind, for men and women gave their
lives for me and to whom much has
been given much is still required.
Nowadays I’m cotton to that church who
gave me ribbons to memorize scripture ‘cause
the wonderful words are hidden in my heart.
Those saints allowed me my Journey but demanded
Count Your Blessings and Everlasting Arms, songs
that now rise unbidden to haunt me with hope.
It is true that joy recurs.