Cross of Grace

A community of grace sharing God's love with no strings attached.

Sunday Worship:
8:30am & 10:45am

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

FAITH5 – Blessing One Another

Wednesdays in Lent we are exploring thefaith practice called FAITH5 – a nightly routine in which families gather to SHARE highs and lows, READ scripture, TALK about how scripture informs their lives, PRAY for one another, and BLESS each other.

"Blessing One Another" –
a Lenten message by Angi Johnson

In my 15 plus years of being a child and adolescent therapist, I have had many occasions to help youth identify and correct thinking errors. One of the thinking errors I would teach is called “Distant Elephants”. Basically, it’s about making a choice that will likely have unwanted consequences but the consequences are-or seem to be-so far in the future that they do not act as a deterrent or cause one to make another choice. Like an elephant – when it’s far away, it looks small and not scary or intimidating. However, as it approaches and gets closer and closer and bigger and bigger, the fear begins to set in. I have put a great deal of thought into what I am to share with you tonight and I am 100% sure that I was utilizing the Distant Elephant thinking error when I agreed to do this. When I told Pastor Aaron, I was in, it seemed so far away…not scary, not intimidating. But as the days and weeks go by and it gets closer and closer, that elephant was suddenly huge and I have been scared. Really, really scared. Sure…I’m scared to talk in front of so many people but I’m also scared that my words won’t be adequate in conveying the importance of a nightly blessing.

Even though I have jokingly shared with a few people that Pastor Aaron preyed upon my weakness by asking me to do this at the Mardi Gras party after a beer or two, I actually volunteered. When Pastor Aaron told shared with church council about his experience hearing Rich Melheim speak and how he and Lindsey were incorporating the Faith 5 into their nightly routine, I was excited! I shared with him that I have been blessing both of my children nightly since my youngest, Faith, was an infant. I have to be honest and admit that I consistently have really high aspirations about implementing faith practices into our home…and I consistently fall short. We don’t even pray every night before dinner and we don’t ever do family devotions.

However, when Faith was born, we were attending a church that offered “Faith Stepping Stone” classes. These classes, also by Rich MElheim, were classes created for parents of children at certain developmental stages that taught how faith and child development fit together and provided a faith practice at each age. Because we are really high achievers when it comes to this stuff, we attended the first class, which taught the faith practice of the nightly blessing and that was the only class we attended. However, because we did attend this one class, we started the ritual of giving both of our daughters a blessing each night at bedtime. The blessing we use is simple…I make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say “You are a child of God. God loves you and so do I”. That’s it. It takes probably less than 5 seconds. But I think the benefits are so profound.

Blessing is powerful. In Rich Melheim’s book, Holding Your Family Together he says,

In blessing, we are claimed and named as part of something larger than ourselves. We are both braced and embraced. Blessing brings comfort and shows us we are important to God and to the people who bless us. It brings a mutual reassurance of God’s unconditional love to both the bless-er and the bless-ee.

Later he writes, 

A hug is a blessing. A kiss is a blessing. A smile is a blessing. These all have power. But by invoking the name of God, we invite Him into the picture with our loved ones and our loved ones into the picture with God. …Blessing names us, claims us and calls us to live up to that name-God’s child. It calls us to further live up to this gift. Blessing brings intent and purpose to our lives. It assures , ensures and reassures us of God’s unfathomable power and unconditional love. It reminds us of who-and whose we are.

Wow, we can give all of that in less than 5 seconds!!

I do this with my girls, Maggie and Faith, because I want to give them all that every single day. I want them to know every night before they go to bed that they are loved by God and by Micah and me. I know that life isn’t always easy even when you are a kid-and unfortunately, it will probably get even more difficult as we wade into the turbulent waters of adolescence. They will probably be called names and have things happen to them that make them feel unworthy or unloved. Sometimes I might have a bad mom day when I’m not as nurturing as I would like to be or they might have a day or two when they aren’t the best kids in the world or easy to like. This is why I want them to know…every single day…that they are both children of God and that God loves them and their mom and dad do too and that nothing will ever, ever change that.

I take time each night laying with each of the girls for a short time and always end with the blessing and a hug. Sometimes, on particular days when we haven’t gotten along so great or had the easiest day, this can be hard…because I’m angry or annoyed or my feelings are hurt and I just don’t want to do it. But I always do. Because I want them to know, especially on the hardest days, that they are still God’s and they are still mine.

When I really stop to think about it, I need to hear that same message, especially on the bad days – that I am a child of God. And Faith does often give me a blessing after I give hers. She used to say “You an an adult of God. God loves you and so do I.” I have tried to explain to her that I am a child of God too, even though I’m old, and so are her grandparents and her teachers and everyone else. When I stop to think about it, I am in awe that I am really God’s child and He loves ME in a perfect version of the intense, unconditional and passionate way that I love Maggie and Faith. Glennon Doyle Melton writes in her book Carry On Warrior

I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.

That is another thing that I hope to convey to Maggie and Faith in their nightly blessing…that they are God’s and they are loved but so is everyone else that they encounter. And I hope this will changes the way they interact with other and live in this world. Actually I keep that quote written in the paper calendar that I still use so I can remind myself that that’s how I want to live and interact in the world.

When I think about the fact that we are all children of a loving God, I recall the writings of one of my other favorites, Nadia Bolz Weber, in her totally amazing book Pastrix. She is preaching on the Gospel text in which Jesus is baptized and God and God says “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well please” and she writes,

And the Word that had most recently com from the mouth of God was, ‘This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.’ Identity. It’s always God’s first move. Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, God has named and claimed us as God’s own. But almost immediately, other things try to tell us who we are and to whom we belong; capitalism, the weight-loss industrial complex, our parents, kids at school-they all have a go at telling us who we are. But only God can do that….. Our identity has nothing to do with how we are perceived by others. But it’s still tempting to believe

After some more explanation and exploration about our identities and our temptation and tendency to believe the world instead of God, she makes the following suggestion:

Take a note from Martin Luther’s playbook and defiantly shout back at this darkness, “I am baptized”, not I was but I am baptized……because every person, regardless of religion, is named-and claimed-baptized by the God who created her.

This is what I want to give my girls in that very short blessing each night – the confidence that they are beloved children of God and so is everyone else they meet. And that they are God’s and only God can tell them who they are.

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