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The power to bless, Part I (the easy part)

on February 10, 2012

Blessings have become somewhat diluted in our culture. There’s the well-meaning “Bless you” when we sneeze, or “Have a blessed day!” when folks say goodbye. Here in the south, we also say “Bless his heart!” when someone does something touching or we feel sorry for them. And then there’s also the dismissive “God bless!” that’s become popular when someone does something with which we disagree — as if saying, “Do what you will. I could care less.”

The kind of blessing I want to talk about today goes a little deeper than that. It’s the kind of deliberate validation of another person that says, “May God’s favor be upon you,” or the deliberate setting of our intentions for extending grace unto another. I know, that sounds murky… I’m having a hard time articulating a definition for blessing. I trust you know what I mean. Let me know if you’ve got a good definition!

The Bible is full of examples of blessings. Sometimes we read about people praying for or requesting God’s blessing. Sometimes they are conferring blessings themselves — sometimes even blessing God. There are even exhortations to bless: “Bless, and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).  It turns out we do have the power to bless. Hopefully all of us have experienced what it’s like to give and receive a blessing, even if we don’t always use the language of blessing. Lately I have been more conscious about offering my blessing and it has really made a difference to me. Today, I will focus on the most natural ways I have incorporated blessings into my life (the easy stuff). Next week, I’ll discuss how I’ve been working on offering my blessing when it’s challenging or not-so-natural to do so (the hard stuff).

The sweetest and easiest way I have integrated blessing into my life is making sure that I bless my child every day. The most common times for me to bless Lucas are at bedtime (right before I place him in his crib) and when I drop him off at daycare. That way, I am blessing him at the start and end of each day, or blessing each day and night. I love the feeling of holding Lucas in my arms and whispering a blessing into his ears.

By the way, some families in Brazil have a neat tradition of having children request blessings from their parents when they are about to leave the house. We didn’t practice this in my family and I don’t know if it’s still practiced, but I remember seeing friends and cousins practice this within their families. It would go like this:

Child (as they’re leaving): “The blessing, Mom.”
Mother: “God bless you, son.”

Another easy way for me to tap into my power to bless is through my work as a chaplain. I often pray for God’s blessing upon the patients I see, frequently invoking blessing upon their bodies, upon the hands of the caregivers, and the instruments used in their care. I started doing this while doing a rotation in a children’s hospital during my chaplaincy training. When praying with children, I thought they needed something concrete to relate to. So, I started asking God to bless the IVs, medicines, needles and whatever else was being used to provide them medical care. Being specific in my prayers for blessing felt so meaningful to me that I carried it over to my ministry to adults. Now I always include an element of blessing in my prayers and I can always find something specific to bless.

In addition to requesting God’s blessing on my patients, I often offer my own blessing to them as well and sometimes encourage them to bless themselves. For example, the other day a patient expressed sadness about the fact that his legs are giving out on him and it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to walk. He described his legs as “weak” and “failing” him. When I offered prayer, I started by leading us into a blessing of his legs. Instead of weak and failing, I called them blessed and recounted all the ways in which his legs have served him well — how they have supported his weight for so many years and have taken him where he wanted to go, and how he has made good use of them in specific ways. And we blessed them in the state they are now to receive what they need.

I hope this gives you some ideas for blessing those around you. I would love to hear how you use blessing in your daily life. One thing I have noticed about blessing those I love is that the act of blessing always seems to involve an element of gratitude. When I bless Lucas at the end of the day, I can’t help but feel grateful for having him in my life. And the blessing of my patient’s legs was really a form of thanksgiving for what his legs have represented to him.

The more we learn about gratitude, the more it seems like it really is the key to happiness. It also does wonders for your health (check out some of the news articles on this compiled by the University of California. You’ll be amazed!). There is a myriad of ways of practicing gratitude, and extending our blessing can be one of them. And what a sweet way to count our blessings — by blessing them back!

With gratitude and blessings in mind, here’s a nice video from gratefulness.org. Watch this every morning and you’re sure to have a good day!

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4 responses to “The power to bless, Part I (the easy part)

  1. Steven Monhollen says:

    Thank you for your beautiful reflection.

  2. NickAndrea19 says:

    Wonderful post. It’s so counter-intuitive to think I can bless somebody, but last weekend at a men’s initiation ordeal I went through, I discovered I can. It was an unbelievable moment when somebody actually came up and requested it from me, and I still don’t believe it.

    What I got out of the video was a reflection of beauty that I have long since forgotten. There was a time when I believed life was all purposeful and God’s hand ran through it all, but at some point I forgot that, preferring instead to believe in the ways of the world.

    It is good to be reminded of that again and to realize I was right all along.

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