At our country and gospel service, we used to sing a song called “Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman Jr. The chorus goes “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God has done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God has done.” Any day is a good day to count our blessings for contentment and gratitude bring us peace and happiness. Oh, to be like the apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4: 11b-13, “for I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” In this season of Thanksgiving, it is particularly appropriate for us to count our blessings.
As I think about this year and the West District, I count my blessings. One blessing has been the opportunity to meet with each local church to hear about how you experience God, how you are touching and how you want to touch the communities around you and beyond, and to hear your core values. As I have traveled from church to church, I have found that each church has its own character and spirit. While our churches are all United Methodist and share many things in common, we are also diverse with unique sets of characteristics, passions and ministries. It has been a great blessing to hear through the congregational meetings how God has touched your life and used you to touch of the lives of others.
Another blessing has been sharing important anniversaries with some of our West District churches. This year I celebrated First UMC, Glendale’s 125th anniversary and Shepherd of the Hills UMC’s 40th anniversary. Next year will be Prescott UMC’s 150th anniversary. What a blessing to celebrate the way God has touched the lives of generations of people through our churches. Sometimes in the midst of challenges, it is easy to get discouraged. Celebrating these anniversaries and reading about the histories of these churches has reminded me of God’s faithfulness, in times of plenty and in times of struggle. Each church has faced the ebbs and flows of life and yet they have continued to serve Christ and make his love tangible to each other and to the communities they serve.
Another blessing has been the generosity and faithfulness of many of our West District churches even in these challenging times. Each month I get a report on our apportioned giving. This has been a very difficult year with our apportionments at their lowest in the history of our conference. It would be easy to be discouraged and depressed, however I count my blessings; the West District has been the most generous of the districts with our giving down just over 1%. I would like to challenge each of you to show the generosity of our West District churches by paying your apportionments so that the district is above last year’s giving. Let’s not be down 1%, next month, let’s be up over 1%! These apportioned funds support our collective ministry from our urban ministries like UMOM and Justa Center to camping and retreat ministries to the webinars and trainings we offer, to support for struggling churches. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:10-12, “The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God.”
I am continuing to count my blessings naming them one by one. Many of those blessings involve you in our West District churches. What are your blessings? What has God done in your life and in your church?
“Count your blessings,
name them one by one;
Count your blessings,
see what God has done;