During my last article, we discovered the power of encouraging others. We encourage others by smiles, hugs, kindness, prophetic words, and sowing blessings. When my husband and I got married, we took our commitment to encourage each other seriously. We included the phrase ‘to love, honour and encourage’ each other in our wedding vows. It’s a lifetime commitment to bless others, including your spouse. When we sow blessing into others, we reap blessing. The law of sowing and reaping is a biblical principle that’s often talked about concerning finances. But this is about far more than money.
Let’s take the idea of encouragement further into blessing. In the last article, I spoke of my encouragement to singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson, who now is blossoming in her music career. And we discovered another example – that of Anne Sullivan – who was deeply loved into life by a nurse that gave her brownies and a loving, listening ear. That young girl later was to mentor Helen Keller. When you bless others, who knows how far that can reach?
One of the missionaries that we work with in Worcester, South Africa is Mella Davis. She is a missionary and an educator. We teach in her school, and help her with a kids club in Riverview township. These kids have responded sweetly to her strong and loving personality. When she gives discipline, it’s done with love, and deep blessing. One thing that she does at the end of the time together is to have the children and helpers join hands in a circle. We sing together of the power of blessing into each other, and the surrounding world. Believe it or not, this song is known as an Aretha Franklin Song!
She sings, “Reach out touch somebody’s hand, make this a better place, if you can.” The kids love it, and everyone’s heart is warmed by the sharing and the song. Here are the lyrics of the song:
Chorus: Reach out and touch Somebody’s hand;
Make this world a better place, If you can (x2).
Take a little time out of your busy day To give encouragement To someone who’s lost the way;
Or would I be talking to a stone, if I asked you to share a problem that’s not your own;
We can change things if we start giving.
Chorus: Reach out and touch Somebody’s hand;
Make this world a better place, If you can (x2).
If you see an old friend on the street, and he’s down, Remember his shoes could fit your feet; Try a little kindness you’ll see, It’s something that comes very naturally. We can change things if we start giving.
These well-known African-American singers are basically encouraging us to bless. There are so many scriptures that back this up. Paul in Romans 12 reminds us that we are to remember to bless and pray for those who curse us. This is intentional. You have to choose to bless – whether it’s the one person in front of you, or many who are watching. We all need blessing – one at a time.
Yet sometimes we do the opposite of blessing. We may be mean without even realizing it. Complaints, sarcasm, and cutting comments can strike a person’s soul deep within in. If the target is a child, it’s even worse. And if you’re a teacher, like we are… this is a warning. These kids have more than enough discouragement in their lives without adding un-intentional curses from us. So we need to stand guard and make it a habit to be kind at all times.
The writer of the book of James makes clear how easy it is to control our tongue. If you control it, you can intentionally bless and not discourage by mistake. James 3: 1-11 goes as follows:
Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?”
Another form of ‘cursing’ is teasing. I shared in another article that my father used to constantly tease me. And then I endured it at school so much that we had to move neighbourhoods. I am not talking about light natured teasing, where you don’t mind because you know you are loved by the person. I am talking about the feeling of wilting under constant negative words. They cause you to shut down inside, rather than to grow and blossom.
I travelled to Lahore, Pakistan for a mission in January 2006. I went alone and stayed with a local ministry. It’s not generally a good idea to go alone on missions, but no one else would join me at the time. And I found that both India and Pakistan were lands where most people I saw were thin. In Pakistan, if you were a little overweight, you’d be teased lightly until you lost the weight. And then they saw me. I think I shook their cultural constructs of what a missionary could look like. In my case, the gospel message came in a different package.
So I at first got light natured teasing, and I just laughed it off with something like, “no sweets for me.” That was easy, since I found Pakistani sweets too sugary for my liking, but I did like their ice cream. But then the teasing increased exponentially. It seemed like I would be teased at least four times an hour. That’s once every fifteen minutes. I took a day off to visit a friend in another neighbourhood, and was at peace, since there was no teasing. However, that’s when the teasing caught up with me, and I realized there was something wrong. That night I cried and couldn’t fully sleep. I prayed through the night, and in the morning, I had a strong sense of peace. Somehow I had learned of a local Punjabi proverb that was “there is no need to state the obvious.” So I was greeted by the cook, who teased me. I was filled with peace from God, so it was easier to respond in a positive way. I said good morning, then that proverb, and that I would love some chai. Then my hostess came in and also teased me, and I smiled and said, “Esther, if you really loved me, you wouldn’t say that. Let’s move on and talk about something else.” And then it happened a third time, and again, I stood up with kindness.
However, I was exhausted, and later had to lie down. Unfortunately, my bed was in their main living room, where they did ministry. So I asked the ministry leader to just ignore me resting, and to carry on with his work. After his guest left, he asked me why I needed to sleep during the day. I explained to him about the sleepless night I just had, as well as the effect of all the teasing. He was familiar with spiritual warfare, and that Satan was using these words to shame me. While this was true, the source of the poison came from the tongues of those who worked under him. Their teasing was like curses.
I explained that I understood Pakistan has a culture of thin people, and if anyone was bigger than that, they would be teased. However, I said in my own culture, it was seen as an offense to go on and on about it. That was not teasing, it was fat shaming. Then I asked if they have bees in Pakistan, and when was I told that there were, I used an analogy of bee stings. I said, “unless you are allergic to bees, if one or two bees sting you, they won’t kill you. You’ll just get a sore arm. But if you get many bee stings, it can kill you.” The leader’s eyes opened wide in surprise, and from then on, all teasing stopped. They learned through my example what little stings of teasing can do. Even as a Christian, they can get under your guard, when you least expect it. So bless them back.
My friend Tanya shared with me another story. She was shown three bowls of cooked white rice that were stored in different rooms. The first bowl of rice was blessed and people spoke kind words over it. The rice in that bowl turned pink! The second bowl was ignored, and the rice stayed white. Finally, the third rice bowl was cursed, and people spoke negative words over it. The rice in the third bowl turned black! There have also been similar experiments over plants – they respond to blessing and cursing. I have to look more into this to confirm these reports, but I can say that I’m not surprised. Both Blessing and cursing have a powerful effect on the environment. So WHY do we curse when we can bless?
American prophet James Goll shared an online “Elijah List” article about blessing back in 2015. He said that we are indeed blessed to BE a blessing. We are to proclaim blessings over our families, churches, cities and nations. Even if our own parents haven’t blessed us, there are some people who have. And God always blesses, he does not curse.
We are all crying out for encouragement and to be blessed. It doesn’t have to be a priest or pastor who does it, although that’s special too. And a father’s blessing is absolutely essential for a child to come into their own during puberty. It’s like the child needs this blessing to grow into their masculinity or femininity. But still anyone can bless. And if you have come to faith, you have Jesus living inside of you. You can bless with real spiritual power.
Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote about expressing blessings, in their book The Blessing. The First is to TOUCH. Through touch, we can impart life, warmth, compassion and blessing. There is a reason why leaders and prayer people touch you when you ask for prayer. This could be a light touch on the hand, shoulder, or a hug. You are connecting and imparting love and care to that person. The Apostle Paul told the Romans in Romans 1:11 that he wanted to be with them so he could impart a blessing to them. Touch is also one of my husband Tony’s love languages, so when I touch him, he feels loved. We have been married for (almost) nineteen years, but we still hold hands all of the time. And Tony is not alone in receiving love this way. This is the same with many people.
The second way to bless is through a spoken word. This can be prophetic as in giving specific hope to people, or it can be as simple as a sincere, loving compliment. The third way to bless is to attach high value to the person that you are blessing. This means you don’t give the same words of blessing to everyone. Sometimes a blessing in words is specific. The important thing is to honour the person, for honour is the language of heaven. Stop and offer an arrow prayer to God. What would Holy Spirit say to that person? Or give that person thanks for something good they have been doing. When you really notice people, it validates them. They are not invisible. They matter. Choose to notice and bless them.
The fourth way to bless is to give them a taste of favour for their future. Blessings help move people into their destiny. Why? Because someone believes in them! Whether your blessing is general or something just for them, that person now has a deposit of hope and joy to see their future in a brighter light.
And the fifth way to bless is to commit to follow-up on the person you blessed. How are they doing? Encourage them, that the blessing was not a mistake, and that they are valued.
And so, I take it as an honour to bless all of you. May the Holy Spirit pull out any darts in your hearts that brought shame and discouragement. You matter. You really do. Please don’t allow the words of the past to haunt you and follow you all of your days. And if you’re looking for the blessing of a mother, I give it. Grow, child in Jesus’ name. You are loved. You were created to be loved. Forgive those who have hurt you so that you can receive even more blessings. It’s time to open your heart. You are safe.
As I write this article, I am reading this scripture over you from Numbers 6: 24-27: May the Lord bless you, and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace.
And so Lord, fill my friends with your peace, in Jesus’ name. Now, let’s all choose to bless!