Spirit Alive: Counting One's Blessings is More Than Math


Spirit Alive is a weekly blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.

November 24, 2015

With Heart, Soul, and Mind

“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22: 37-39

Counting one’s blessings is more than a math exercise…it’s a spiritual discipline.
In January 1995, I began a spiritual practice that I had previously recommended to others. Simply stated, it was to count one's blessings each day. I finally figured out that if it was worth telling others about, then perhaps I should do it myself. Over the years, this daily practice has fundamentally changed how I experience life. What I do is this: Every Monday morning during my prayer and meditation time, I review my prior week and write down all the blessings I can think of that occurred during those days.

Each week is different. Sometimes the blessings involve encounters with others. Sometimes they are as simple as recalling a walk in the neighborhood. Sometimes they have to do with something I saw. Sometimes it is an aspect of life that I finally noticed or it could be an experience that ended up becoming an epiphany. From Tuesday through Friday, I read the blessings that I recorded in my journal on Monday morning, and this becomes a part of my spiritual discipline for that day. I’ve learned that my blessings are as rich and diverse as life itself…and I've been writing them down now for over twenty years!

Since developing this practice, it is clear to me that my overall sense of gratitude about life has increased immensely. In short, I’m always on the lookout for blessings….rather than focusing on problems or concerns. I’ve come to realize that it makes a great deal of difference what I  pay attention to!

In this same spirit, my brother, Mark, who has spent a great deal of his time in retirement composing and performing music, created a piece of music he calls “Gratitude,” which he kindly dedicated to me. It is a beautiful piece of music that I hope you enjoy hearing.

If you’d like to listen to the music click http://umoi-email.brtapp.com/files/uploads/gratitude.mp3

Over the years, I’ve learned through experience that looking for blessings is contagious. When we receive blessings from others, this encourages us to respond in a generous way as well. As a result of Mark’s musical composition, I wrote a poem for him that I called “Gratitude.” We're still trying to figure out if these gifts to each other could ever be combined somehow. Here is how my poem goes:

God’s beauty surrounds us every day,
Whether at work, at home, or play.
So let us pause to thank the one,
Whose spirit rises like the sun.
When walking in my neighborhood,
Remembering that God calls it good,
Not because of what we’ve done,
But for what we can become.
This precious life before our eyes,
As we lift our faces to endless skies,
We stand in awe of planet earth,
And of the God who gave it birth.
In trouble, hardship, even pain,
When there appears nothing to gain.
Let us remember and recall,
That God is with us through it all.
We count our blessings on this day,
Passing but once along this way.
And what of our attitude?
May it be filled with gratitude.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to think about the fact that “giving thanks” isn’t a once a year phenomenon. It’s a way of life! Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham put it well in their book Experiencing Spirituality when they said: "It is important to realize that gratitude is not a feeling; it is, rather, a vision-- a vision that enables recognizing gift."

Blessings on the journey,


Spirit Alive is a weekly blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It will seek out where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. These are signs and examples of life that can be expressed in inspiring books, vivid videos, and works of art. Spirit Alive is intended to point to these “signs” in ways that touch our hearts and nurture our faith journeys. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.

Lowell Greathouse
Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org