Count Your Blessings!
by Dr. Derrick Jackson, Pastor | November 23, 2017The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is one of America’s most cherished traditions. On Nov. 6, 1789, President George Washington encouraged America “to observe a day of public thanksgiving and prayer and acknowledge with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.” Although we are 228 years removed from President Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, America still has much to be thankful for!
There is something special about the potential of America. Despite our many differences and challenges, America has the potential of being a beacon of light in a dark and cruel world. She has the capacity to be a missional and liberating presence in this world that models Christ’s love, justice, peace, service, prosperity, civility, and decency. President Ronald Reagan once stated: “This anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.” In my view, America’s “exceptionalism” is her potential to “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with her God” (Micah 6:8). Alexis De Tocqueville observed: “The greatness of America lies not in her being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
During this time of the year, I often think of the tranquility that Thanksgiving can bring to a nation anxious about its present and its future. The divisiveness, dysfunction, and disdain that abounds in our nation has many fearful, frustrated, and anxious. The collapse of leadership, morality, and character at every level is very troubling. The arguments concerning patriotism and protest are unsettling. However, it is important to remember that Thanksgiving is not only a time to recount our blessings; it is also a time to reimagine our future.
In their book entitled, What Unites Us: Reflections On Patriotism, Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner remind us that freedom, community, exploration, responsibility, and character are some of the valuable traits that unite us as a country and position us for a better future. For so many in our country, the ability to imagine a better America and dream of a better future has been stripped away. However, we have the opportunity during this Thanksgiving season to help others in both word and deed reimagine and participate in an America that does not divide people by race, class, gender, or political affiliation but rather unites people by love, forgiveness, fairness, and service to each other in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.
I concur with President Barack Obama who stated: “The spirit of Thanksgiving is universal. It is found in small moments between strangers, reunions shared with friends and loved ones, and in quiet prayers for others. Within the heart of America's promise burns the inextinguishable belief that together we can advance our common prosperity - that we can build a more hopeful, more just, and more unified Nation. This Thanksgiving, let us recall the values that unite our diverse country, and let us resolve to strengthen these lasting ties.”
What are you thankful for during this Thanksgiving season? I’m thankful for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I am thankful that God spared my life from a life-threatening accident. I am thankful for the many persons in Gallatin and Sumner County who have prayed for me throughout this challenging experience. I am thankful for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that helps me to make sense of life in this cold and cruel world. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who empowers me to live a life of purpose and meaning in service to others. I am thankful for family, church, and friends. I’m thankful for our troops, veterans, first responders, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, ministers, care-givers, social workers, nurses, doctors, public servants, janitors, mechanics, farmers, and all who serve for the glory of God. I’m thankful that I live in “The Nicest Place In America” – Gallatin, Tennessee! I am also thankful that I am a citizen of the greatest country on Earth – The United States of America! What about you? What are you thankful for? “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). During this Thanksgiving season, join me in doing what the hymnologist suggested: “Count your blessings, and name them one by one!”