Saturday, February 15, 2020

Bless you!

Even when I was a little girl, I liked the tradition of saying “Bless you!” or “God bless you!” to someone who sneezed. I like receiving the blessing and giving it. Padraig O’Tauma, an Irish poet, says this:

“Bless” — I think of the word “bless” as an extraordinary word of generosity. “Bless” doesn’t need God. “Bless” doesn’t need any religious system to think through. “Bless” is just a word of kindness, a word of beatitude, a word of generous enfolding, to say “Let me wrap you in a word that is meant for pure goodness.”

Yet I believe a blessing holds a secret bit of God’s goodness. It may be true that blessing does not need God, as the poet says -- people often say “Bless you” purely out of habit --, but I believe God hears us when we ask that he bless the “sneezer.” Little do the “blessers” know, they are saying a prayer.

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about blessings. I even wrote one for my daughter, and am hoping to write one for each of my loved ones.

The blessing that got me thinking is this one, by John O’Donohue. (The link in the title is to a recording of John O’Donohue reading the blessing.)

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

[Note: "Beannacht" is the Gaelic word for "blessing." A "currach" is a large boat used on the west coast of Ireland.]

When I hear a blessing, it is like receiving a gift, it is a wish as well as a prayer and a poem, with its rhythmic cadence (“May the...., May the... , May the…). When we give a blessing, we are wishing good things for someone and at the same time we are praying to God for those gifts to be given. The imagery is beautiful, too (May the clay dance..., May a flock of colours…, A path of yellow moonlight…., An invisible cloak…)

The Bible is full of blessings and stories of blessings. How wonderful we are reminded that God sends his love when we say the blessings. One of my favorites is in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one ... whose delight is in … the Lord... That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

“ a tree planted by streams of water...” Isn’t that a beautiful image? In our church’s worship service, after the pastor reads the Scripture for the sermon, we have a responsive reading using that image.

Pastor:  Let us pray for the presence of the spirit.
People:  Spirit of Truth, plant us beside the life-giving stream of your word, that we might grow and bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.

And now I will sign off with the “benediction” or blessing (from Numbers 6) that we often hear at the end of worship services.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

What can I pray about for you?


What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
    You can opt out any time, no hurt feelings, no need for explanation, no worries. Just reply with a subject like "Unsubscribe" or "Opt out" or "No thanks" or whatever
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at I'll keep all communication confidential.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


"Friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses."

A couple weeks ago I went on a retreat called “A Weekend with the Poet David Whyte.” I love David Whyte’s poetry and not only was this a chance to see and hear him read and talk about it, but it was also in a beautiful setting, Asilomar, which is in Monterey Bay. It was a wonderful weekend.

I picked up a book he wrote that contained 52 words with his reflections on them. One of the words was “friendship.” I keep thinking about what he wrote about friendship, in particular that "friendship only survives with multiple forgivenesses." It pleases me to hear "forgiveness" made into a noun like that. Each forgiveness (or less poetically, each act of forgiveness) is like a stone of a path, multiple forgivenesses creating a beautiful path of friendship.

Multiple forgivenesses. Isn’t that the truth? How many times in my relationships have I needed forgiveness! I can’t even count and I’m sure I barely remember all my mess-ups. He also wrote, “All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.” As in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Mutual. I need to both be forgiven and forgive.

I started thinking about my friendships, about different times where I’ve needed mercy and where I’ve needed to practice mercy. Then I thought about Jesus being my friend. Wait, where is the mutual forgiveness there? Of course, Jesus forgives me for the many times I blow it, but I don’t have to forgive Jesus, right? He doesn’t do anything to me I have to forgive, he’s blameless, perfect, without sin.

I have some thoughts on this. I do not know if they are theologically sound. It occurred to me, though, that we do have to “forgive” -- in a manner of speaking -- Jesus for what we expect from him. It’s not a case of forgiving Jesus for having wronged us, as he does for us, and we mutually do with our friends. But sometimes we think that Jesus should do certain things, or prevent certain things, and when that does not happen, it almost feels like we have to forgive him.

We know intellectually that being a friend of Jesus does not mean our life will be free and easy. It does not mean nothing bad will ever happen. It does not mean we’ll be a better, more good, kind, and sweet person than all others. But often, in spite of that knowledge, we do think that way. “I don’t deserve to have this happen to me” is a common response. Then we remember that bad things do happen to people who are Jesus’ friends, just as they do to those who do not claim that relationship. And we thank God we have Jesus walking beside us every step of the way.

So it’s not that we actually need to forgive Jesus as we forgive our other friends. But there’s a way that it almost looks or feels like forgiving when we accept that Jesus will not protect us from every bad thing -- but rest in the understanding that he will be with us, guide and comfort us, and help us get through whatever comes. There is mutuality in that.

What are your thoughts on the mutuality of our friendship with Jesus?

FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.  ~~from Consolations by David Whyte

Thank God for forgivenesses.