Thanksgiving and the Counting of blessings

It is hard to believe it is Thanksgiving week already.  Where is the snow?  Where is the chill in the air?  We have a big Christmas tree up in town, but it’s got palm trees and cerulean waters behind it.

As the month of November has gone by, most of my friends on Facebook seem to be joining in an annual event:  daily posting one thing they’re thankful for.  Our Church bulletin this week had the quote:  “The one place that Satan holds no sway is in a grateful heart.”  It has also been said that “despair and gratitude cannot coexist; one will drive out the other.”  Gratitude is indeed a powerful way of living.

As we continue our studies in the Malay language, we begin to look away from standard textbooks and into hymnals and Scripture for new words to learn.  This week we worked on

“God                bless                you” –

“TUHAN   memberkati   kamu.”

[The Lord]   [verb – bless]      [you].

I asked our tutor what a person would call just one blessing – how the verb changes into a noun.  “Berkat” is the word for a blessing (see it in “memberkati”?).  Now comes the intriguing part – in Malay, as in Mandarin, one does not just say a noun – one specifies how many exactly.  You know singular or plural (or how many) because there is a counting word that goes before the noun.  For example,

A Malaysian = seorang Malaysia   (se = one, orang = person)

I buy apples = Saya beli dua biji epol.  (I buy two [fruit-counting-word] apples.)

So I asked our tutor what counting word would go before “berkat”  (blessing).  She said, “This is irregular – you do not count your blessings.”  We had to laugh – after years of hearing, “Count your blessings” and seeing my friends daily counting their blessings, it was comical to imagine a life where you don’t count your blessings.

But it also makes good sense – you can count many things.  In Malay, there are counting words for people, animals, fruits, big things, long things, thin things, pieces of things, cloth things.  All of these can be counted.  But you cannot count your blessings.  They are as innumerable as the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach.  God is so good; it would be foolhardy to think that we could assign an amount to God’s love.

And so this Thanksgiving – go ahead and try to count your blessings – it’s easier in English!  But remember this truth:  you can’t keep track of the good that God is doing in your life and in all creation.  We give thanks because God keeps giving love and life… and reasons to laugh and be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and to all –

TUHAN  memberkati  kamu!

Studying Bahasa Melayu in Kota Kinabalu

Eric works daily with his tutor, Beatrice Ha, who is fluent in several languages.

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One response to “Thanksgiving and the Counting of blessings

  1. Tuhan memberkati kamu!

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