Last night when we paused to pray before dinner, Atticus grinned, nodded and said, “Thank you, Atticus!” “Thank you, God, for Atticus,” Mike said as I giggled. “And thank you for this food and for rain and for school.”

Is that a blessing? Or just a prayer of thanksgiving? Like many of my friends, I have grown wary of the word blessing. We use the word blessing when we are healthy or when we have money or when we avoid an accident. We use it when to mean that we are favored in some way. The blessings are the good things of life. Why do some of us have them and some of us not?

At the same time, I am not comfortable with saying that everything is a blessing, a gift from God. So I stopped using the word as much as possible.

After reading An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, I have started to think differently about the word blessing. She talks about the practice of pronouncing blessings, about giving them rather than receiving them.

My ideas of faith have often centered around my own development. I thought that following God was about was about soaking up knowledge about God, or the presence of God, or some idea of God’s favor. I loved An Altar in the World because it talked about practices that make us more mindful. And when talking about pronouncing blessings, Taylor says that the idea is to see things for what they are and to declare them good.

It is challenging to look beyond myself and to see people and things for what they are and not what I wish they would be. I practice with Atticus and with Mike and with my students. I have been given words to speak and so I try to use them with care. I am trying to think about blessings in a new way, as something shared between me and others. I am trying to see that sharing these words is a gift that we have been given.

“That we are able to bless one another at all is evidence that we have been blessed, whether we can remember when or not. That we are willing to bless one another is miracle enough to stagger the very stars.” -Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

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