The Practice of Pronouncing Blessings {Book Club}

Well then, I’m rather frustrated. I just wrote this post and hit “save” and it disappeared. I’ve been writing all afternoon and this was to be the last thing I wrote and I’m spent. My creativity is gone.

I am in need of a blessing on this post. It is strangely appropriate to be frustrated and in need of a blessing. If blessings are only for the cleaned up versions of ourselves, our work, and our lives, we don’t really need them. But if they are for the moments of tears and gnashing of teeth as well as for the special moments, that rings truer.

As we enter our last practice in An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, I feel the way I do at the end of many good booksa mixture of happy and sad. I’ve read this book before, truly more like consumed it in one week. Thank you for slowing down and reading it with me. This is one for community and dialogue.

In the post that only God read, I shared three thoughts:

1. The faith tradition I came from wasn’t big on blessings outside of a Sunday service. We’d bless offerings, communion, dedications and baptisms, and offer a benediction at the end of the service. Growing up we also blessed meals before we ate. When I came to the field, I was a relatively young woman. As time went by, I became a less young woman in an organization with many fine young people. I was one of the few people who got to visit and see them in person. Not their parents or pastors or friends. Without using the language, they looked to me to “bless” them and I grew to understand the power of someone physically present and therefore, the power of a blessing. Over time, I have become a blesser.

2. I’m a words of affirmation person so blessings are powerful to me. I’m wondering how your love language influences your view of blessings. I’m guessing we’re all for blessings! But, let’s say you’re a acts of service gal do you see blessings as nice, but not overly powerful for you?

3. Tears rolled when I read about Barbara and her family in the hospital with her dying dad. Eleven months ago with my family, we too gathered around my dad as the reality sunk in; the game was changing. We were no longer needing to decide on a treatment plan but to choose between an option that might prolong his life in agonizing pain for maybe months or stop treatment, allowing for nature to take her course.

As opposed to Barbara’s husband who asked for the blessing, in one of the most holy, honorable, and horrible experiences, we gathered around Dad’s bed and through blessing released him to leave us. It truly was a blessing to us that we could, in all sincerity, affirm his work was done and he could go. He had been a husband, father, son, brother, grandpa and friend we would never forget and always bear his mark on our lives.

I’m sure some of you have had similar experiences whether with family members, dear friends, or even teammates who were called to leave the field. At crucial moments we can display one of the most powerful ways we are made in the Image of God by blessing people and paths, and as Barbara said, even sticks on the ground. I love that blessing can be for the big and the small and the more we practice with the small, we are ready for the big.

What parts stood out to you? What’s your experience with blessing been? Grab a cup and let’s chat. I enjoy these talks, thanks for commenting :),

Amy

P.S. Enjoy this week and next week I’ll share the plan for As Soon As I Fell by Kay Bruner

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Photo Credit : Marius David via Magdeleine cc

14 Comments

  1. Christine December 29, 2014

    I bought this book last week and, like you, have been devouring it.  I actually read the blessing chapter first and found myself, like you, sobbing over the hospital scene.  When I saw my dad for the last time more than 13 years ago, I failed to receive his blessing because I was sure that I was going to see him again in a very short time.  I never did and sometimes can’t believe that is so painful a regret for me.

    I love blessings.  When I hold babies or interact with little children, even if I don’t say “I bless you”, I am aware of the blessing I give them and know that they bless me as well.  But after reading this I am going to work on being more aware that anything and everything I do can be a blessing, any interaction can and should be a blessing.

    Happy New Year’s week to everyone.

    1. Amy Young December 30, 2014

      Christine so glad for your thoughts :)! Like you, this chapter has inspired me to be more proactive/aware of the importance of blessing. Yesterday was my birthday and my sister and I have the tradition of writing memories we have with each other of the number of years that person is turning (so if you’re turning 36 you get 36 memories). This year’s list of memories all involved our dad since he died this year — and the last few were from this year and memories he would have loved to have participated in. The last one she wrote, “And finally, he would enjoy seeing what a good job you’re doing taking care of his yard and his home. This really isn’t a memory together, it seems like a fitting way to bring this to a close. He would be proud and so thankful.” And I wept a fresh. It felt, to me, like a blessing from my dad on my sister’s behalf. And that meant a lot to me.

      I’m very sorry your dad wasn’t able to bless you. If he had, what do you wish he had said?

  2. Tanya Marlow December 30, 2014

    This post has me thinking all kinds of things that I want to explore further. (And – I’m gutted about your lost post – it’s infuriating.)  Like – what’s the difference between bleessing and ordinary prayer? If intercession is asking God for our needs, is blessing asking for the cherry on top, too? Isn’t that greedy?

    and – if blessing is still appropriate today, is cursing too?

    and – how does one go about inventing blessings for others?

    and – does God answer blessings in the same way as other prayers, or is it more like prophecy – revealing what is already there?

    (These questions don’t necessarily need answers!) of course, I haven’t read the book, so perhaps if I did all would become clear. 🙂

    may the Lord bless you, and keep you. May your heart flow with a wellspring fresh joy this next year. May the Lord direct your paths, and give you peace.

    1. Amy Young December 30, 2014

      Tanya, I think if you read the book, those questions might not be clear … but you’d still quite enjoy it! :). I’d love to know what others think on the cursing question you ask! Recently someone I know has gone through a horrible, unjust, trashing of their character and another friend wrote that they were (like in the book of Nehemiah) tempted to curse them. Me too. Now you’ve got me wondering if it would be “OK” to do this :)? I love being pushed to think, thanks!

      1. tanya marlow December 30, 2014

        I remember being in a room with other charity workers, and one of the girls was really poor, and was owed money by a horrible family who were refusing to pay her wages from a previous job. We prayed for her – and another in the group prayed with fire and fervour that this family would get no sleep until they had paid her. I felt a little scared when I said amen! I think that’s the closest I’ve come to hearing a biblical-styley cursing prayer. I wonder if it makes a difference if it’s on behalf of someone else?

        1. Amy Young December 31, 2014

          Oh man, that’s a good question. Does it make a difference if it’s on my behalf or someone else’s? When I read that yesterday I instantly felt more comfortable with other people asking for it against someone I want “cursed” (see, I’m even uncomfortable using the word straight out!) — it feels selfish and self-serving for me to curse a target of my pain/loss. I have been comforted deeply by the thought that eventually they will be held accountable before God. I’m wondering now if this is just sanitized cursing (kind of like saying “crap” instead of the other word). I don’t know. I need to think and pray on this some more. Thanks Tanya!

  3. T December 30, 2014

    I think that blessings and cursings are both still ‘working’ today.  When Jesus said to the disciples whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, I think it was for us, too.  I have no idea how that all works out, and with the exception of one very extreme case, I haven’t cursed anyone (a guy who’s been dead for 1400 years).  So, I’m not saying that I think we should go around cursing folks.

    I’m not the type of person who prays the blood of Jesus over things often, but I remember 12 yrs ago, the first time I took my newborn son out of the house, I surprised myself by praying that like crazy!  Just from reading this post and comments, I’m inspired to start praying more blessings over each person I see in my day.  Why not pray blessings on them, and even say them outloud when it isn’t too out of place (closed country)?!  Maybe along the lines of salvation being revealed…hmmm.

    1. Amy Young December 30, 2014

      T, you’ve got me thinking about how our words have so much more power than we realize — and that I need to be more tuned into using them and not just floating through life letting my mind wander. When I’m out and about, I’d like to at least for five minutes of an outing tune into those around me and pray/speak blessing on/for them (I think if I aim for five minutes it could happen … if I aim for all the time being totally tuned in and aware of folks around me, not gonna happen :)))

  4. Elizabeth December 30, 2014

    Oh, Amy, I cried so hard at her father’s death! Such a powerful story. I cried like I have not let myself in a long time, over the death of my husband’s father, who did not give him his blessing, nor did my husband feel he could ask. It was in such contrast to the way his mom died 8 years before, when she did give him her blessing.

    Things happened between his mom’s death and his dad’s death. Relationships — dozens of relationships — broke up because of those circumstances — including my husband’s relationship with his father, which had been so loving and close during his childhood and adolescence. So when his dad got cancer, the relationship had already disintegrated.

    Mostly I just let myself get angry about that. It had been a long time since I had allowed myself to grieve it. Mostly I don’t think I need to grieve it. Mostly I just write it off. But the way she presented this story, wow, I was so sad it couldn’t have been that way when my father-in-law  — who used to give me his blessing too, before everything fell apart — died. I was just so sad that we didn’t have that blessing, and didn’t even have the relationship enough to ask. Because simply asking for the blessing, as Barbara’s husband did, is a blessing in and of itself. It’s saying, I respect you, I trust you, I love, I hold you in high, high esteem, and I want to say goodbye well. (Wow, excuse me while I go cry some more . . . )

    Sigh. I’m back. 🙂 I know the way you blessed your father as he was leaving this world, it may have seemed in reverse of what Barbara’s husband did, but it was still with the same intention: to say goodbye well, to release. Bless you, Amy, in your continuing grief, for it does continue, and sometimes knocks us over when we least expect it. Sending lots of <3 <3 <3

    1. Amy Young December 30, 2014

      Elizabeth, I’m so sad reading about your husband’s father’s death and how things had changed after his mom’s death (I’m also just sad he’s lost both parents so young!). Have you gotten to the part of “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” where Scazzero talks about the importance to grieve for emotional and spiritual health? I think grief can some in different forms and layers and times. To see that picture of Barbara’s dad and her husband Ed and to think of what could have been for you and your husband with his dad — what can you do but grieve? I shed some tears for you and I don’t “really” know you :). I can only imagine how painful.

      Yesterday (as I mentioned above) was my birthday and I normally wouldn’t say anything, but in light of this chapter and this being my first, it was a significant day. The gift my 9 year old niece made me is an illustrated book of 9 memories with Grandpa. I see this book as a way for her to bless him (and me, the reader) — her third to last page says, “I have more memoirs than these, like going to Dim Sum with him, but I am 9 so I would like to put only nine. Grandpa was a holder of many memories. Grandpa was wonderful.”

      I think I have linked a picture from her book — Villa Manor was when he was moved to hospice/comfort care. That picture of her standing by his bed as he’s dying … it’s stunningly accurate (he DID look like this!!!) and that she was allowed to participate in it, I just have no words.

      This chapter has inspired me to live differently. I don’t mean to talk big. 🙂 …but I really want to be the kind of person who is one to speak life to others and not nurse hurts (as much as in my control … I know there will/are situations like your husband’s where this is not option!).

      1. Elizabeth December 31, 2014

        Oh I love your birthday present! So precious that your niece would think of doing this for you. Firsts are hard 🙁 And even when they’re not firsts, holidays bring up the memories. My husband still gets sentimental about his mom around the holidays (though not always his dad, because, well . . . ). But he really misses his mom, and shares lots of stories and memories around holiday times.

        I don’t think I’ve gotten t0 the part on grief yet. My husband is forging ahead of me in this book, and i’m not quite as fast. It’s like the book validates everything he believes already. And the funny thing is, i KNOW about grief. We did lots of pre-field training related to grief. Lots. I know you are supposed to let yourself grieve, and i try to allow myself to grieve over most things. I think, in this case, i never realized *I* needed to grieve that loss of blessing for myself. Everything was so bad when he died, and i did end up in counseling for that, and i really resolved a lot of anger and unforgiveness. {Yes i’m proof you can be angry at a dead man.} However, most of the offenses and the losses were against my husband, and so i think i always thought of the wrongs and injustice in terms of HIM, not myself. But when i think back to before everything unraveled, how i had a good relationship with him, and how he had approved of me, and how he told my husband he should marry me when he asked his counsel, even said, i was a great girl and would be a great wife, and how very funny and loving and laid-back he was, i started thinking, wow, i lost something too.

        So i told this all to my husband, how i’d never considered it in terms of *my* loss but only his, and how very sad my own loss made me this week. Then he asked me if i was better, if i had resolved it. Well, i said, i don’t know, all i know is that i know now, how i feel about it, whereas i didn’t before. I know, i know, that is confusing. . .

        1. Elizabeth December 31, 2014

          P.S. Thank you for listening to me on all this, Amy.

        2. Amy Young December 31, 2014

          Elizabeth, I don’t think I’m the only one listening 🙂 … I think by sharing your experience you have given us a piece of the holy incarnate. (I’m recoiling at the moment from the phrase “precious gift” and not sure why, but since I”m having such a strong reaction will honor it.) By “holy incarnate” I mean you are embodying for us what this process of blessing and grief and messy reality can look like and it’s a holy honor to see.

          I am impressed (in the best, most human way, not in a pedestal way) of the ways you and your husband grieved and invited others (i.e. counselors) to help with the process. As an outside observer, I can understand why the focus was on and for your husband! Makes total sense (and not that one ranks things, but in terms of priorities, seems the “right” place to start!). In his timing, God has chosen now to show you another layer or angle — that you too have lost. You lost the blessing of a man who approved of you and said to his son, “Son, you’ve done right by that one.” I’m sad again for a blessing given and then STOLEN. (I’m thinking here of Esau and Jacob and stolen birthright blessings. You’ve entered into that story for me in a way I haven’t seen it before.)

          Maybe you won’t resolve this quickly (and that’s OK), but now that you know it is something you can grieve and process and offer to God and others. It can become a gift you didn’t know you had to offer.

          I’m also thinking of your kids and the blessings they have missed out and I’m sorry for them. And for your husband not to have gotten to witness his father blessing his children. I’m thankful for the memories he has with his mom.

          I look forward to the day when I get to meet you and others I’ve met here at VA! (nothing is planned, but I’m a dreaming optimist!)

  5. VJ January 10, 2015

    We live in a culture where blessings (and cursing, unfortunately) are a normal part of everyday life.  Everyone speaks blessings particularly when saying goodbye or at milestone events (births, weddings, etc).  We have been able to use the normality of this aspect of the culture to be a light here… which is exciting.  We bless way more than the average local and that in and of itself is remarkable to them, regardless of what we actually say. Here are some of the blessings we speak over people regularly…

    May God bring you many clients and meet all your needs. (to salesmen, taxi drivers)

    May God reveal himself to you.

    May God show you the path of righteousness.

    May God make His Way clear to you.

    May God give you real peace and joy.

    May God shepherd you.

    May God comfort your heart.

    May God strengthen you and give you wisdom.

    (at births, baby baptisms) May God allow this child to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

     

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.