Reflections on a Winter Day (c)

Like many of you, I found myself working at home on Monday, February 23rd.  Outside the study window, both our driveway and the street are covered in a sheet of ice.  Such winter days often leave me in a thoughtful reflective mood.  I try to catch up on writing, email and reading.

In my reading this morning I am continuing to plumb the depths of John Ortberg’s marvelous little book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.  Over the past few months, my spiritual guide and I have been slowly working our way through the book and its accompanying study guide.  Today I read the 13th chapter entitled “The Soul Needs a Blessing.”

I found myself captivated by insights that Ortberg (and through John Ortberg, Dallas Willard) offers.  The words “blessing” or “blessings” is one I use often and casually, yet with meaning on my part.  It is here the author focuses my intention.  He writes:  “Blessing is not just a word.  Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.  We must think it, and feel it, and will it.”  In this simple yet profound definition, I am taken to a deeper level.  I am asking myself, “When I say ‘blessings’ or ‘God bless you,’ do I think it, feel it, and/or will it?”  My honest answer is a hedged yes; mostly but often, far too often, not on an impactful level.  A blessing is reaching out in love.  It connects me to the great commandment, to love God with my heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love my neighbor as I love myself.

John Ortberg quotes his great mentor Dallas Willard (to whom the book is dedicated) as saying, “Churches should do seminars on how to bless and not curse others.”  On reading I simultaneously experienced an “aha” epiphany and a punch in the stomach.  I pastored local churches for 30 years and never once held a seminar on how to bless not curse others.  Furthermore, I’d like to take such a seminar!

Under Willard’s tutelage, John Orberg starts with a passage we know well.  I first learned it about 50 years ago as a teenager.  We called this passage of Holy Scripture the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) benediction.  It comes from Numbers 6:24.

“The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

The following is my own shortened summary of advice from Soul Keeping on learning to bless (pp. 154-157).  I continue to commend this whole book and in particular this chapter to you.

1.  Blessings and curses are “simply the two ways we treat people.”
2.  Blessing takes time, so don’t hurry.
3.  “Blessings-giving should be asymmetrical. It is not a form of barter.  It’s grace.”
4.   Turn to the one you want to bless.
a.  Look into their eyes..
b.  Allow your mind to focus on this particular individual, the one before you.
5.  “The Lord bless you” = may the Lord, “constantly bring good into your life.”
6.  “Keep you” = God should protect and guard you with the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross. John Ortberg adds:  “Underline the word you.”
7.  “His [God’s] face shine upon you” = the Lord’s glory and delight be in your life. Dallas Willard adds, “Glory always shines.  Glory was always meant to be shared.”  As I understand the biblical concept of glory, it means the radiant presence of the Lord.
8.  “The Lord lift his countenance upon you” = being fully present to someone. I cannot help but think the opposite is multi-tasking while we talk to someone.
9.  “And give you peace” = “unthreatened, undisturbed peace”

I hope to be more of a blessing to people.  How about you?

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