During the season of Lent there is an increased attention given to Spiritual Practices – rituals and habits that draw us closer to God (and to one another). For Lent this year, I created a Prayer Booklet for my youth to introduce six different types of prayer. There is a brief overview of each one, an accompanying scripture passage; reflection questions, and a breath prayer. In addition, there is a Spotify Playlist with a few songs for each type of prayer. (Note: It is not Lent-specific and can be used in any season.)
This Sunday at Youth Group, I introduced the youth to another type of prayer – Blessing.
The source of my inspiration was an activity I had done with children a few years ago after exploring a Bible story of God blessing someone…which I was reminded of when reading the revised edition of The Godbearing Life. At the end of the chapter entitled, A Rhythm of Life: Practices that Shape the Soul, there was a quote from a Rabbi that said, “every word has power…and we can all do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments” (p148).
These past few years have been full of absurdities and frustrations and disappointments. AND – in the midst of it there have also been glimpses of hope, love, and redemption. We choose each day, each moment -whether to fixate on the former or the latter – whether to contribute to the chaos and the harm and the division, or whether to work towards peace and reconciliation and wholeness.
The spiritual practice of blessing is contrary to how most teenagers talk (and many adults these days). It’s easier to point out others’ faults and shortcomings and make fun of them. It’s easier to allow our insecurities to influence our words and judge what we don’t understand.
But as people who follow Jesus we are called to support one another and lift each other up, speaking well of one another; affirming each other and celebrating each person’s God-given uniqueness.
Spiritual practices are not things that come naturally to all of us. But the more we PRACTICE them, the more they can become part of our daily lives.
So let’s practice.
The invitation is to practice offering blessings – specific affirmations of people and/or to speak words of hope for them. These are some of the ones shared at Youth Group Sunday night:
I appreciate the way that you care for others.
I love the way your smile lights up the room.
I love your laugh. I love your uniqueness.
I appreciate your gentle spirit and how you offer grace to others.
I hope your baseball season is fun and that you do well.
I hope that your anxiety lessens and you feel peace.
I hope that you have a good week.
Now if you know me, you know I like to make things active/participatory – and if there’s a way to involve color – YES. So here’s my holy play version of the spiritual practice of Blessing:
Materials Needed: face paint (sticks are best, or something like these – the colors pop off the tray); you’ll need one face paint stick or circle paint for each participant.
- Share some type of introduction to the spiritual practice of Blessing. (This may be some of the above information or as a response to a scripture story of blessing.)
- Invite participants to share words of blessing for one another. Offer examples to help participants think of things to say. Especially if there are visitors or people who are less familiar to some participants – offer generic blessing examples.
- Invite participants to “cover” someone in a blessing as they share these words. Offer options according to people’s preference. Some may be open/comfortable with others writing or marking on their face, arm, or hand. Other may prefer to have a piece of paper to hold in front of them for others to mark on so that others are not touching their body. In all cases, have participants ask permission before marking on another person’s body.
NOTE: This can get messy, if you let it. At the end of Youth Group all the youth’s faces (and mine) were covered in face paint markings. The good news is, you can use a face paint that washes off easily. Optional: have makeup remover wipes for an easy cleanup.
- The actual activity: Spend time walking around the room, offering blessings to one another in word and in markings. Option to take a picture afterwards of everyone “covered” in blessing!
- Option to close in debriefing the experience with reflection questions and/or prayer.
Thank you, God, for creating each one of us in your image and gifting us with unique qualities and a sense of purpose. Thank you for each person here and this space where we gather together. Bless our words and may they be uplifting to one another so that we each feel valued as your beloved children. Amen.