Blessing For Each Family Member

Below are the family blessings that our Jewish brothers and sisters have taught us. Our family members read these blessings over one another at the beginning of our weekly dinner together.

Blessing for Wife

Proverbs 31

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Blessing for Husband

Psalm 112

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.  Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.  Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.  Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.  He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.  The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Blessings for Children

One of the most moving Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) traditions is the blessing over the children given on Friday night. There are many variations on how the blessing is made. The most common custom is for a parent to put his/her hands on the child’s head and recite the blessing. In some homes each child gets up at the table and stands before the parent to receive the blessing, and in other homes the parent walks around the table and blesses each seated child. Whatever method is followed, the blessing is sure to make the child feel special and loved, boost the child’s self-esteem and give the child fond memories of Shabbat-family-together time.

The Blessing for a Son

English: May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.Transliteration: Ye’simcha Elohim ke-Ephraim ve’chi-Menashe.

Why? Just before he dies, Jacob blesses his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He says they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future. On the day Jacob blessed them, he said, “In times to come, the people of Israel will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe’.” (Genesis 48:20) Ephraim and Menashe did in fact become role models worthy of emulation. Unlike those before them, including Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers, Ephraim and Menashe were not rivals. Rather, Ephraim and Menashe were brothers united by their drive to perform good deeds.

The Blessing for a Daughter

English: May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Transliteration: Ye’simech Elohim ke-Sarah, Rivka, Ra-chel ve-Lay’ah.

Why? Each of the matriarchs has qualities that qualify them to be role models. The matriarchs were strong and laudable women. They endured difficult home lives, hardships in marriage, infertility, abduction, envy from other woman and difficult children. Nevertheless, these righteous women, through their individual passion, their partnerships with the patriarchs and their loyalty to God, succeeded to build a nation.

The Blessing for Children

After the above blessing is recited for a son or daughter, some people continue with this blessing for both boys and girls.

English:May God bless you and watch over you.?May God shine His face toward you and show you favor.?May God be favorably disposed toward you and grant you peace. Transliteration:?Ye’varech’echa Adonoy ve’yish’merecha. Ya’ir Adonoy panav eilecha viy-chuneka.Yisa Adonoy panav eilecha, ve’yasim lecha shalom.

 

 

A Blessing For Your Husband

In a Jewish home at the weekly Sabbath meal the father says a blessing over each child, followed by the mother blessing each child, then the husband blesses his wife, and finally the wife says a blessing over her husband. It is beautiful experience even just to watch.

Many of the Jewish wives choose to read Psalm 112 to their husband as a blessing.

Psalm 112

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.  Good will comes to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.  He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

 

 

A Tool for Discipling Children

The New Testament says little about the family because the Old Testament says much. The Book of Proverbs is an extensive and important tool for parents as they raise their children.

Robert Alter’s translation and commentary of Proverbs titled The Wisdom Books will be a help to parents as they instruct their children in wisdom. Dr. Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

His translation brings fresh meaning to many familiar proverbs. For example: “How long, dupes, will you love being duped, and scoffers lust scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)

One sample from his commentary “Intelligence of the most practical sort, involving an alertness to potential deceptions and seductions, is seen as an indispensable tool for the safe, satisfying, and ethical life, and a fool is repeatedly thought of as a dupe.”[1]



[1] Robert Alter, A Translation with Commentary The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), p. 194.

Fast Food and the Family

The dinner table is about love and belonging. I use to see fast food restaurants as a threat to our families and culture but now I realize that they are actually the creation of our culture. Our rugged individualism, independence,  demand for instant gratification, and minimum relational attachments find its expression in the drive-thru window.  Unlike our predecessors we can now afford to circumvent the dinner table by grabbing a Quarter Pounder and a Happy Meal all in the name of convenience.

But building relationships has never been convenient. A meal begins with the self-denial to set aside the time required to have dinner together as a family. As parents there is not only the surrender of our own wants (and laziness) in order to make dinner with our family possible but also the struggle to teach the value of the meal to our children as they are pulled by the internet, homework, television, video games, music lessons, friends, sporting events, and school events. We make room for whom and what we value and because relationships and family are no longer important to us the dinner table is disappearing from our culture.

The love of the dinner table is activated by the sacrifice of purchasing or growing the food, preparing the food, setting the table, and the clean up afterwards. It is hard work but meals provide for us the opportunity to lay our lives down for one another that results in having the meaningful relationships for which we long and for which we were made.

 

 

 

 

A Story of a Life

The story of David opens with a poem written by a woman named Hannah. She had suffered emotionally for years and was ridiculed relentlessly because she could not have children.

The Lord then provides for her a son, Samuel, and out of her joy she composes “The Lord is a Rock and a Deliverer” which begins the chronicles of David (1 Samuel 2) and then 130 years later David closes his life by composing a poem mirroring Hannah’s original work providing poetic bookends to the story (2 Samuel 22).

These bookends unify the whole narrative of David’s life. The message of both poems is clear-in times of trouble and pain, the Lord is trustworthy. He has a plan. He will protect. He will rescue. The poems were birthed out of each author’s experience of the Lord’s deliverance in heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, enemies, pain, and betrayal.

  • Listen for the themes in the story of life of your child or disciple. Each story is unique and is different from your story.
  • Look for the “Hannah” in the life of your disciple-a person who years before had a role in the spiritual formation of your disciple. (Someone he or she may have never met.)
  • Encourage your child or disciple to create expressions of the work of God in his/her life. (Writing, painting, music, storytelling, poetry, etc.)
  • Suffering are the markers of the work of God is the life of your child or disciple.

Bless This House

Recently one of our families moved into a new home and so this past weekend we gathered in their front doorway to bless this family in their new house.

The ceremony went something like this:

  • Affirmation of Hospitality. The time began with the reading of the story of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality to three men who end up being messengers from God. (Genesis 18:1-8)
  • Presentation of Mezuzah-One of our Jewish followers of Yeshua presented the family a Mezuzah, which is a little box to be hung in the doorway containing a scroll with the following passage:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

  • Statement of Husband and Wife’s Vision. Next the husband and wife shared with us the vision for their new home and for their family.
  • Group Affirmation. The group then verbally affirmed the couple’s vision believing that their vision was in alignment with kingdom values. We also affirmed that their family belonged to us and we belonged to them.
  • Individual Blessings. Members of the group then expressed their individual hopes and desires for this new home and the family members who lived there.
  • Prayer. We ended the time in prayer asking the Lord to bless this home and family.

IMG_0476IMG_0479

 

 

Identity Crisis

Many American Christians are in an identity crisis or what may be better described as a crisis of non-identity. We spend time and resources to learn how to “do” life and ministry more effectively but rarely do we explore the question “to whom do I belong?” Misplaced identity is evident in the question “what do you do?” when meeting someone new while the question “to whom do you belong?” would seem odd to ask.

My friend Yitzhak (Ed) is a Rabbi who was over 50 years old the first time he read the New Testament. He exclaimed “How Beautiful!” when he read the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Mathew.  (The same list of names we skip over to get to the “good stuff.”) Just as Jesus was identified as the son of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Matthan, so Ed understands himself to be Yitzhak, the son of Eliyahu (Ed’s dad), the son of Yosef (Ed’s grandfather).

This past week I meet with Ed and two of his Jewish friends and as I asked about their backgrounds it was evident that from childhood they understood to whom they belonged because of the intentionality of their parents, grandparents, and the Jewish community. To belong means that the family/community cannot imagine itself without you and you cannot imagine yourself apart from that family/community.

 

 

 

The Calling Out

This past weekend was the “Calling Out” ceremony for my nephew. Sansui, my brother-in-law, is Nigerian and it is their tribal custom for the father, joined by the other men of the tribe, to “call out” a son from boyhood to manhood when he turns 13. It is a rite of passage of love, belonging, responsibility, accountability, and identity. Now living in the States Sansui has adapted the ceremony to include the significant men who make up their family’s American tribe. The men ranged in age from 83 down to 15.

The ceremony began with my nephew sitting among his peers wearing a colorful woven hat that identified the tribe to which he belongs. Sansui asked his son to rise and then in a loud voice called out his name inviting him to leave boyhood and to join the other men in the room to manhood.  My nephew acknowledged the call and expressed his desire to enter manhood.

He then moved to a designated seat where each man read to him a letter he had written concerning manhood and gave to him a gift that correlated to his letter.  The letters were autobiographical in nature drawing from the unique spiritual pilgrimage of each man. (Unexpectedly I was moved by what the 15-year-old men had to say.)  Woven together these letters made up a beautiful collection of wisdom, counsel, love, but also warning.

The clear messages from the 2-hour ceremony were: (1) you are loved and (2) you belong to us and we belong to you.

A couple of observations:

  • The “Calling Out” was initiated and led by a dad. It was a family event.
  • Although the ceremony was meaningful to my nephew, it also reinforced the importance of belonging for the adult participants. The older men were visibly moved as well as those still in their teens.
  • The ceremony made clear what in life is important and what is not.

 

 

 

 

Bridging the Breach

You cannot expect someone to love who has not been discipled. To assume that your disciple has a desire to love God, you, and others can frustrate him because he is aware of the relational expectations you have of him but he knows that he cannot fulfill them.

Fear developed in your disciple because of a void of love. This fear disrupts his relationships, which inhibits love, which brings on more insecurity, and so goes the downward cycle. He is afraid of what he does not know how to do and so to ask him to love God or people is to ask him to face a deep fear. That fear leads to frustration and frustration to anger and you may be the recipient of his anger.

The inability of your disciple to build and maintain healthy relationships is a result of a detachment from God caused by a distorted view of God, which may have been brought on by his Christian experience.  This distortion developed out of the contradiction of his hearing the message of God’s love in sermons, books, and bible studies that did not match up with his experience whether in his family or church.

As Jesus bridged this breach by the laying down of his life for his disciples so you remove the contradiction in your disciple’s thinking by the laying down of your life for him. The message of love now lines up with his experience.

Closing thoughts:

  • You will experience your disciple’s inability to build relationships either by (1) his aversion to connect with you or (2) his outright rejection of you fueled by his fear.
  • Laying down your life for your disciple will cost you. It can be a painful experience.
  • Parents have the opportunity to daily demonstrate love to their children by the laying down of their lives for one another and also for each child.

Meet the Parents 2

One way to get know your disciple is by getting to know his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents through family stories. Here you are looking for relational tendencies, values, character traits, and dysfunctions that have been passed down through the generations. Most people I disciple have given little consideration to their parent’s relationship to their grandparents, or their grandparent’s relationship to their great-grandparents, even though we are all products of preceding generations. Family stories are a mirror for your disciple to see himself.

Several years ago I wanted to get to know my dad and mom better so I set out to discover some of their childhood stories. My dad is from upstate New York so one summer I loaded him in the car and film in my camera and we toured the places of his youth. Later I did the same with my mom visiting her old stomping grounds in the Indiana Harbor. In both cases they were almost compelled to tell the stories of the past as memories were stirred by revisiting the houses, schools, neighborhoods, cemeteries, and churches of their childhood. I learned about people and events that I would have never known about apart from these trips down memory lane with my parents. Dad told me how as a boy on cold Sunday mornings he would build a fire in the woodstove at the Emory Chapel, which was built in 1833, so that the church would be warm when the congregation arrived since his family lived nearest to the country chapel. Mom told of her Yugoslavian neighbor, Mrs. Horvat, who taught my grandmother how to make stuff cabbage, which to this day is my favorite meal.

The best way to gather information about a person is through stories rather than asking direct questions. Story telling unlocks the memories of the heart. Often I have had a disciple say, “I just don’t remember much from my childhood”, but as you get him telling stories he will start remembering things and then say, “I haven’t thought of that in years!” or “I had totally forgotten about that.”

A couple points in closing:

  • Memories can be locked up by fear and shame. Story telling is a backdoor entrance to your disciple’s heart.
  • Telling his childhood stories can be emotional for your disciple. Just yesterday a guy got choked up as he was telling me about his childhood.
  • Together my disciple and I build a timeline of his life, which helps him remember the stories of his youth and helps me keep his story straight.
  • When possible visit the hometown of your disciple. I find it intriguing that most of Jesus’ disciples were from around the town of Capernaum, which was the base of operation for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would have known some of his disciples’ families.