Saturday, November 24, 2007

Count Your Blessings

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Name that movie.

1954.   Vera-Ellen.   Rosemary Clooney.   Danny Kaye.   Bing Crosby.   The above song, written by Irving Berlin, was nominated for an Oscar.   Too easy?   It should be.   White Christmas.

I love that movie.   As far as I'm concerned, if there were a Canon of Christmas Movies, White Christmas would be among the greats – along with the Miracle on 34th Street (1947, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwinn and Natalie Wood), It's a Wonderful Life (1946, James Stewart, Donna Reed), Scrooge (1951, Alistair Sim), A Christmas Story (1983, Melinda Dillon, Darin McGavin, Peter Billingsley) and Christmas Vacation (1989, Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo).

I love Christmas Vacation.   It's everything our celebrations generally are.   Lights that tangle and don't light.   Relatives that bicker.  Children that complain.   Kitty-Os in the jello salad.   Crazed squirrels.   (Or is that just my house?)   Clark Griswold is my soulmate.   We both have expectations we can never hope to meet.

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to.
Clark: When have I ever done that?
Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays, vacations, graduations....

Clark Griswold has watched White Christmas too many times.

White Christmas is 1950s Utopia in Vistavision.   Vera-Ellen looks more put together in her flannel pjs after sleeping on a train or after sweating from a strenuous dance routine than I did on my wedding day.   She and Rosemary Clooney wear the most gorgeous dresses throughout the film, and they never get wrinkled or spill hot chocolate on themselves.  

In White Christmas, even World War II looks clean.   Patriotism is the norm.   Democrats in Vermont are rare.   {Giggle}   Dashing Danny Kaye dances into Vera-Ellen's life.   (The best things happen while you're dancing….)   White knight Bing Crosby croons his way into Rosemary Clooney's heart.   Soldiers from all over the country fill the lodge to honor of General Waverly, the boys get the girls, and the long-awaited snow falls to the strains of, what else, White Christmas.   I love a good romance.

What does any of this have to do with being thankful even in difficult circumstances?   I believe that if you look hard enough, you can find wisdom anywhere – even Hollywood.

  • When you're worried, depressed, or troubled, count your blessings.   Think of all the good things in your life.  Or as Paul wrote,

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8

  • When times are trying, remember when times were rough before – and how you came through them.   In the Old Testament, God's people are constantly instructed to remember, to repeat what God has done in their lives.   It's not that God needs our constant praise (although He deserves it) – it's that we need to remember who He is and what He has done in our lives and in the lives of others.   Remembering His faithfulness gives us courage to live.

  • Don't have unreasonable expectations.   Real life is more Family Vacation or A Christmas Story than White Christmas – which becomes very apparent when you dress up four children and try to keep them clean and looking at the camera for that family Christmas photo.   Strive for perfection in the areas that are meaningful – in love, in forgiveness, in humility, in faithfulness – and be flexible with all the other stuff.

  • Even when things aren't perfect, when circumstances aren't what we expect, when Cousin Eddie arrives unannounced, parks his RV in your front yard, and empties his chemical toilet in your sewer, you can still find joy.   When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.   Or to borrow from A Christmas Story, when the Bumpuses's hounds steal the Christmas turkey, find a Chinese restaurant and discover Peking Duck.   (Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra.)

    Remember these things, and you'll find joy and thankfulness.

    Oh, and one more thing – don't eat Aunt Bethany's jello.
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