I was never very good at mathematics, which may have been one of the reasons why I could not count all my blessings! Another reason would be that they have been so numerous. There was a revised version of an old chorus which went, “Count your blessings, name them two by two; Count your blessings, name them four by four… And it will surprise you there are millions more!’
So what blessings am I grateful for? After more than 65 years as a Salvation Army officer (minister), I’m grateful for all the appointments I had over the years, whether they were small corps (churches) or large territories in different countries. While every appointment was a challenge, with the grace of God I did my best.
I have also been blessed with a wonderful marriage, which has enhanced my life’s work—in fact, as married officers my wife Margaret and I have had the privilege of being “workers together with God”.
Another blessing I am grateful for comes each year to all of us, and that’s the coming of spring.
While each season of the year may have some appeal for us, spring is especially delightful, which is why it is a particular favourite of poets. The 16th century poet Thomas Nash called spring “the year’s pleasant king”, and you may recall Tennyson’s famous contention that, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”—although in these times of equality we should also include young women in that reference.
In my neighbourhood signs of spring have been around for a few weeks. The jonquils and daffodils have been tossing their heads with joy in the morning sun and lately I have noticed that trees which have been naked and shivering all through winter are beginning to don spring fashions, with fresh leaves and budding blossom. That has done a lot for my morale because this new growth speaks of dormant life within and fuller life to come.
Saying that reminds me of Jeremiah, one of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets in the Bible, and a fine poet as well. He lived through a rather difficult period of history and was a serious sort of man—a loner, we might say. His home was in the village of Anathoth, a few miles outside Jerusalem.
One day as he was clambering over the hills near his home he saw an almond tree in blossom. In his country it was the first tree to show signs of life after the winter, and the locals called it “the wakeful tree”. Through looking at the tree, Jeremiah became aware of his vocation and his faith in God really came alive.
The Bible tells us that, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 1).
For me, the season of spring is a blessing from God each year, and a continuing promise of newness of life all around us.