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On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Power of Counting and Speaking Your Blessings

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From Jeff: The following is a guest article from Evan Moffic, who serves as rabbi of Congregation Solel in Highland Park, IL. You can visit Rabbi Moffic on his blog. The following was adapted from his book, Wisdom for People of All Faiths.

Once upon a time, a wise man met with a king. The king challenged the man with a riddle. He said, “In my hands is a small bird. Is it alive or dead?” The wise man paused and looked down.

Count Your Blessings

Photo Credit: marfis75 via Compfight cc

The wise man thought to himself, “If I say it is alive, he will close his hand and crush it. If I say it is dead, he will open his hand and let it fly away.”

The wise man turned his head up and said in a soft yet commanding voice, “It’s all in your hands.”

The same is true for us. Our lives are in our hands. It is not always easy. We face struggle, challenges, and difficulties. But we can derive blessings from them, if we are intentional. We can, to use the phrase of the late Debbie Friedman, “find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”

To make our lives a blessing, we need to make two critical choices: count our blessings and speak our blessings.

Counting our blessings

As a father of two young children, I am truly blessed. Yet, that’s easy to forget at 3:00 a.m. when one child’s loud crying wakes up the other.

One of the ways I remind myself is by following an ancient Jewish custom. In Judaism, the first thing we are supposed to do each morning is sit up and say the words,

I am grateful to you, Oh God, who has restored my soul from sleep and given me the breath of life.

No sighing. No turning our pillows over and burying our heads in them. We recognize the blessing of life. We prime ourselves to live with gratitude. We count our blessings and find happiness in them.

Saying blessings

It is not enough, however, to recognize and count our blessings. We have to say them, too. Acknowledge them. Speak them.

That’s why the ancient sages urged us to say 100 blessings a day. Something magical happens when we give expression to our feelings, when we use words to show gratitude.

About a month ago, I saw an example of this magic. I was in my office when a member of my congregation came by. He had a burning question.

“I was dining at a restaurant in New York,” he began. “A few tables away from me a man stood up and proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes, and everybody in the restaurant cheered. Then the man walked quietly over to a corner, put on a yarmulke, and said some type of blessing. His and his fiance’s eyes filled with tears. Rabbi, do you have any idea what blessing he said?”

I recited a blessing I thought it might be, and he said, “Yes, that’s it! Do you have a copy?” “Sure,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“I am planning to propose to my girlfriend this weekend, and I want to say it with her.”

With tears in my eyes, I handed him the blessing.

How a blessing works

Blessings express our feelings. They need not be traditional ones. They simply need to come from the heart. When they do, they can change lives.

I experienced this truth near the end of my grandfather’s life. We were very close. Up until his death, I tried to talk to or visit him every day. We would usually end our conversations with my saying “Talk to you tomorrow.” We did not say, “I love you.” He was not a warm fuzzy kind of guy, and it just did not feel right.

But during the last few weeks of his life, something changed. Perhaps it was the birth of my daughter or his declining condition. Whatever the cause, our moments became more infused with meaning.

When I said, “I love you”

A month before my grandfather died, I was sitting by his bed, talking to him. As I got up to leave, I felt a twitch in my stomach. Turning to him, I said, “Grandpa, I love you.”

He didn’t say anything. Our connection, however, had changed. Thereafter, we ended each conversation with my saying, “I love you.”

Saying ‘I love you’ to our dearest ones blesses them and us. It is a way we make our lives a blessing. It is something each of us can do today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives.

This is one more way we can speak and share our blessings. When we do, we learn the discipline of gratitude and the importance of words in our daily lives.

Everyone has an opportunity look at his or her life and decide what to focus on. Will it be the tragedy, the pain, the hardship? Or will it be a blessing? You decide.

What’s one blessing you haven’t spoken that you need to? Share in the comments.

Disclosure: The above book link is an affiliate link.

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About Evan Moffic

Evan Moffic serves as rabbi of Congregation Solel in Highland Park, IL. You can visit Rabbi Moffic on his blog. The following was adapted from his book, Wisdom for People of All Faiths.

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  • http://twitter.com/noahfineart Noah

    In a world that is fallen, broken and hurting it sure is wonderful to think more about blessings. We have the gift of choice and the power to choose to think on things such as blessings, love and being intentional. Renwing our minds to be or say a blessing isn’t part of our nature. Much easier to default to negative thoughts. I am grateful for the Gift of mentors in my life. That God lives and cares for me during the greatest valleys and highest peaks. But truly the blessings of having a savior that daily allows me grace and being saved from myself. His way is such a blessing. My wife, kids and people are the greatest opportunity to show his love by loving them. Blessings to you all this day that is a gift.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Noah. knowing that life is a gift is the root of our blessings.

  • Vicki Perfect

    I believe wholeheartedly in speaking one’s blessings. I wake each morning , journal and write a prayer at he end of each entry. It is my way of speaking my blessings. Thank You for the wonderful prayer and thank you for being a blessing of mine today.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Vicki!

  • Josh

    I agree with Noah! Everyone has pain at sometime in their life. This normal and and actually a blessing to see where God is taking you. We may not be able to understand why, but I believe there is a reason. I’m blessed that through pain there is growth. I too can share this with my family and in the relationship of others.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Josh.

  • Colleen Shine Phillips

    The rabbi’s words remind me of Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. . If we would just open our eyes and hearts. . . it’s an incredible life/world out there. Thank you for sharing this

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Colleen. I’ll have to check out that book.

      • http://theemptyinbox.com/ Michael Hawkins

        Yes, Ann’s book is GREAT. It has opened my eyes so that I can see so many things that (up to now) have missed.

        Telling my boys that I love them is important to me. And to tell them how proud my wife and I are of them. It may seem like a ‘little thing’ but I truly think those spoken words will go a long way to making them feel loved and confident.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mj.shanlyvieweg Mj Shanly Vieweg

    wonderful article. It is a blessing to me! I’ve got some challenges to face and transitions to make right now. Finding my way to this post this morning encourages me and no doubt many others. In the midst of my upheavals, I have blessings to count and gratitude to give, starting here. Thank You!

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks MJ. And many blessings in facing those challenges.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Hmmm? A blessing that I haven’t spoken about? That’s a tough question. I tend to count my blessings, perhaps not aloud, but regularly. So rather than one I haven;t spoken about, I would say that I could be more vocal about all of my blessings at times.

    • rabbimoffic

      Saying them does something to us. It brings our blessings to greater awareness.

  • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

    What comes out of your mouth is what’s in your spirit. What’s in your spirit is affected by what comes out of your mouth. It’s a circular thing that can really build upon itself if you make the effort.

    I try to speak good things as soon as I get up in the morning. I don’t always do it, but when I do, it certainly starts the day with a much better attitude than I otherwise would have.

    • rabbimoffic

      That’s write. in Jewish tradition, understanding comes after doing. What we do shapes how we think.

      • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

        I’ve definitely found that to be true in my own life.

  • Martyn Wood

    There is verse in the bible that say we have the power of life and death on our tongues. I want my words to be used to build up and and bless; not criticize and tear down.

    • rabbimoffic

      Absolutely!!!

  • David

    I count my blessings, but I’ve never been big on speaking them to others, especially those who are blessings to me.

    • rabbimoffic

      Speaking them reinforces our gratitude. It hints another one of the five senses.

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    Yesterday I commented on LinkedIn regarding a similar topic. We will find whatever we are looking for, positive or negative. I choose to look for the positive.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Jon.

    • http://www.facebook.com/askalicky Amy Skalicky

      The word “choice” is key in understanding Rabbi Moffic’s article.

  • Mike

    I found this article very inspirational. For some reason most of us tend to focus on the hard and difficult things in our life. Waking up and speaking our gratitude is an awesome idea. To me it’s a lot lot affirmations, it helps us focus on what we want and what were grateful for as opposed to what we don’t want or our lives difficulties. Sounds like a wise man!

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Mike. Gratitude is the secret to happiness.

  • Kimberly Thompson

    Marriage

  • Dawn Muench

    Wow! I love this- so powerful and so timely for some I need to share this with. What a beautiful reminder of speaking gratefulness and the double ( exponential) blessing that is!!

  • Toni

    Jeff, My son is about to purpose. He would love to use that blessing. Can you shar it? This was a wonderful post, but I failed to comment on my favorite. Your post about commitment I have shared with all my friends and family. It is a rarely spoken and much needed truth. Thank you!

    • rabbimoffic

      Hi Toni, it’s the shechyanu prayer. If you send me an email, emoffic@gmail.com, I can send you the text.

  • Kirk

    Wow! thank you for sharing your wisdom! The power of the spoken word
    is remarkable. From out of the mouth speaks the heart, creating a flow
    of energy, capable of causing a ripple effect, or a chain reaction of
    goodness in our world. We all ought to do this several times a day.

    • rabbimoffic

      Kirk, beautifully put. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/JMZeiger Jennifer M Zeiger

    Wow. I needed to hear this today. Thanks=)

  • http://www.facebook.com/askalicky Amy Skalicky

    This article reflects points from a conversation I just had with a friend of mine. We talked about gratitude, even in the midst of challenges, hardship or even tragedy. Sharing blessings with others is something we each can choose to do, and relying on God’s direction in doing so allows us to be used to offer such gifts to those we encounter on our walk with faith. The article also emphasizes the importance of being intentional in our thoughts and words each day, as both thoughts and words are not only powerful directors of our lives, but they have the potential to empower others. “I love you” is one such powerful set of words that perhaps we do not acknowledge or express enough, Fear, perhaps, locks these words away, yet the power of sharing such a blessing is evident in the author’s account of their impact on his connection with his grandfather. We are called to unleash the power.

    • rabbimoffic

      Yes, each of us has the power to bring so many blessings into the world.

  • http://pickadirectionandgo.blogspot.com/ mickholt

    Good post Rabbi, I really liked

    “…Something magical happens when we give expression to our feelings, when we use words to show gratitude.”

    Thank you for sharing.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks!

  • Debby Gies

    I count my blessings everyday. I thank God everyday for letting me wake up. I say it out loud and I often remind friends how greatful we should be. It’s unfortunate that some must have to go through tragedy, death or serious illness to realize how precious life is. Shalom Alechem!

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Debby. You’re so right. Blessings can help us keep gratitude front and center every day.

  • Janet Denton

    What we practice is what we become. Our emotions follow our thoughts. Practicing the art of Blessing is the positive art of a Thankful heart. I have found what I focus on will determine the outcome. If I want to be Blessed I need to be a Blessing to those I am around.
    Thank you for sharing The Blessing, I have been Blessed by your Blessing.

    • rabbimoffic

      Thanks Janet!

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    This is powerful – one thing I try to ask myself in any situation is if I am going to chose to be a blessing to other person (and make the situation better) or a curse (and make the situation worse). I’d like to say I normally choose the former, but it is a daily struggle.

    • rabbimoffic

      that’s a powerful idea. to be a blessing to another person is an opportunity we have at every encounter.

  • Sally Chippendale

    I often say blessings at the end of the day, during meditation or before sleep; never considered it at the beginning of the day because I’m usually dreading peeling myself out of bed. I might try being thankful upon waking and see if it helps cure my consistent morning grumpiness. I’m sure my husband will also be thankful. Thank you as always for sharing such wisdom.

    • rabbimoffic

      it’s a nice way to start the day.

  • Donna George

    This was heart warming and I’m glad you blessed us with it. What you say is true – everyday is a gift. I try to remember to pray before my feet hit the floor in the mornings.

    I guess there is this person I need to forgive, but I am not able to yet. Soon.

  • Sam

    What a great blog. Thank you.

  • Jeanne Bowser

    I’ve spoken the blessing over my daughter since she was a baby girl and now that she’s almost 21, I still do at times when I see her. I know it has greatly influenced her life and she will do great things for God!

    • rabbimoffic

      That’s a fabulous tradition. In Jewish tradition we bless our children every Sabbath.

  • Acacia

    I have a blog on which I upload a photo that I’ve taken each day of something that I’m grateful for. It’s in French, so I can practice my language and photography skills to get better at expressing my gratitude for the people and things in my life.

    • rabbimoffic

      what a fantastic idea!

  • Delores Liesner

    Thank you for the great message. One of my greatest blessings came from speaking I love you to my childhood abuser (my mom) for 4 years until she surrendered herself to God and we finally heard it back (I say we because one of my siblings heard I love you from his mom the first time at age 72!). I admit at first I was speaking on behalf of God (sharing the same grace He’d shown me), but through that journey I did grow to love her. I came to realize that sharing God’s love has a rebound effect!

    • rabbimoffic

      wow! that is powerful story.

  • Adam Finn

    The Modeh Ani (the morning prayer mentioned) has always held a special place in my heart. And i am by no means a religious follower of Judaism. What better way to express gratitude when the spirit is awoken first thing – the morning represents a fresh awakening in the face of whatever has come prior. To be thankful of THIS current day that is beginning and all that you take into it and could take out of it. How perfect each day could and should be.

    Our blessing is not that we can look, sniff, touch, eat, hear or be conscious. Our blessing comes when we can be conscious of being conscious, see what we look at, smell what we sniff, feel what we touch, taste what we eat and listen to what we hear.

    have a great day!!

    • rabbimoffic

      Adam, It’s one of my favorites as well!! Thanks for mentioning.

  • http://twitter.com/Piano_Jo Jo Inglis

    An unexpected gift to come across this (late at night in the UK) one of those beautiful gems God leaves. Thank you.
    A Gaelic Blessing – Deep peace of the running wave to you – is one we played at my mother’s funeral. It is set to music by the English composer John Rutter. I have used it many times since when playing piano at funerals & even though people usually don’t know the piece they often comment on the peaceful atmosphere that it creates. I think too that is a blessing at work, it seems to be nothing tangible on the surface, but people know when it has visited
    Have left a link to the music here in case you want to check it out..

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  • Elisa Leeder, MS

    Being aware that our lives are in our hands is a true blessing. With life and experiences comes struggle. Struggles develop out of relationships, such as you a father of two experienced. Due to your relationship with your faith, you are able to shape your struggles or discomfort into something positive, into a blessing. This is a beautiful way of utilizing solutions within yourself and your life.

    I like that you point out that acknowledging blessing is not enough. We need to say them in order to experience then. In my experience as a therapist, people gain meaning if our actions are emphasized through our inner state of mind. We all get messages from society, family, friends, culture, faith, and so forth. They tend to lock up our mind with chatter and struggles. However we have the opportunity to acknowledge this chatter and shape our mind around our dreams, hopes, and aspirations instead. Paying attention to the positive can help us to see solutions rather than struggles and enhance our quality of life.

    Elisa Leeder, MS

  • Jennine G.

    Reminds me of Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” Absolutely life changing ideas. Eucharisteo – grace, thanksgiving, joy.

  • Lucas

    Hi, I want to invite you all to a writing contest, submit your story at http://www.passionup.com/newwriter/index4.php and if your story is selected you can win $250. Good luck!!

  • http://twitter.com/MeganYoungmee Megan Youngmee

    Thank you for stopping by my blog :) I just linked back to the article about how I forgot for a few cold moments that I wasn’t as blessed as I am! Take care. Keep the beautiful content coming.

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