Counting Our Blessings

One of my favorite hymns related to Thanksgiving is Count Your Blessings. Johnson Oatman of New Jersey wrote the text of this hymn in 1897 and Edwin O. Excell wrote the tune, “Blessings”.

Johnson Oatman grew up in a musical family, enjoyed singing, and was granted a license to preach at the age of 19. However, he did not make his living working in a church related vocation; instead, he worked at his father’s mercantile business. Later in life, once his father passed away, he operated a successful life insurance business.

According to accounts of his time, Oatman was not a distinguished singer or preacher. However, he did eventually discover his passion – hymn writing. He became a prolific hymn writer, composing over five thousand hymns throughout his lifetime. Most hymnals published today have at least one of his songs. For example, Higher Ground, found in our own Celebrating Grace hymnal, is by Oatman.

Like his collaborator Johnson Oatman, Edwin O. Excell produced a massive amount of work over the course of his lifetime—over two thousand songs. His stanza selection and arrangement of Amazing Grace became the most widely used and familiar setting of that hymn by the second half of the twentieth century. You are familiar with Excell’s arrangement of Amazing Grace because it is the one used in our Celebrating Grace hymnal.

Count Your Blessings is by no means a profound text or tune. The text and the tune are both rather dated. Nonetheless, I do find this fun-to-sing, upbeat hymn a valuable reminder to focus on my many blessings rather than on whatever real or imagined problems and troubles I may have.

Counting My Many Blessings.