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Blessing Janet (and Others in Your Life)

In their book The Critical Journey, Robert A. Guelich and our beloved Janet O. Hagberg write, “Those who have been through this stage (The Journey Inward Stage) themselves and may be specially trained in spiritual direction, spiritual formation, or pastoral counseling are unique people and are to be sought out.”

In 2004 that is exactly what I did. I sought out Janet Hagberg. I wanted to learn from her wisdom, her experiences and her heart. And she responded. I met with her and a friendship was born. Over the last 12 years, Janet has been a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration. She models the relationship with God I want to have. She has served as a mentor and guide through a transformational way of living. And my guess is she has done the same for you in some way…through this blog, her website (, her books, her teaching, her ministry or through her everyday way of life.

This is my last blog entry for At River’s Edge, so I want to take the opportunity to invite any of you who has been blessed by Janet to return the favor and send her a blessing. The best way to do this is through her website: Let her know what it is you appreciate about her or her ministry.

I’ll go first:


I appreciate your willingness to help people grow and heal. I appreciate the way you not only listen to God, but surrender to His voice. I appreciate the way you live simply and modestly which opens you up to God even more. I appreciate your listening ears. And I appreciate your friendship and encouragement.


Speaking of blessings…

Is it more difficult for you to give a blessing or receive a blessing? Here is what I have noticed about myself when it comes to blessings:

  • It is more difficult for me to receive blessings than to give them. Receiving a blessing has been an area of growth for me. The more I see myself as being loved by God, the more I am able to receive blessings from God and others.
  • Sometimes it is difficult for me to give blessings verbally especially if I think the person is “fishing” for a compliment or acknowledgement in some way.
  • Giving a blessing verbally can feel vulnerable for me.
  • I am much better at giving blessings in written form through cards, emails and text messages than through verbally speaking them. For me it feels safer and the words I write are more thought out and meaningful.

My wife and I used to read to our kids each night from a book of blessings called Bless your Children Every Day by Dr. Mary Ruth Swope. It is full of simple blessings to read over your kids in areas such as courage, abundance, abilities, a free spirit, humility, and much, much more. Our kids ate it up! They craved the times we read from the book. And after a while, my wife and I started making up our own personal blessings for the kids. I highly recommend this practice for parents.

The most common “mistake” made when giving a blessing is when the blessing is limited to praise for accomplishments, achievements and a job well done. It is more important to praise someone (anyone, not just your kids) for WHO they are, not for what they DO. The easiest way to do this is to think of character traits you see in the other person. If you are like me, it helps to have a cheat sheet. Character First is a curriculum that teaches on 49 different character traits. So here is what I do: I cheat. I look at the list of 49 character traits and pick a couple or a few (sometimes I may only see one) from the list that I see in that person. Click here to see the list and definitions:

So now I encourage you to practice giving a blessing. Give a blessing to Janet. Give a blessing to your loved ones, Give a blessing to your friends.

In fact, I dare you to try an experiment!

The Experiment

  1. Select one person to bless this week.
  2. Look at the list of 49 traits and pick 3 traits that are exhibited in the person you selected.
  3. Choose a way to deliver the blessing: speaking it verbally; writing it in a card, a note, an email or a text.
  4. Start the blessing by saying, “I appreciate you because you are ___________________.”
  5. Notice what goes on inside your heart after giving the blessing.
  6. Notice how the relationship with that person changes over the next few days or weeks after giving the blessing.

I pray that this exercise is a powerful experience for you.

Barry Thomas














Dear Subscribers,

As they say in baseball, “I’m hanging up my cleats” and ending my regular blogging activity. I’ve experienced more than five years of grace in which to write what is on my heart and what God gave me to say. Hopefully I’ve done so with a wee bit of compassion, vulnerability and humor.

Now my work in the realm of spiritual and emotional healing is taking up much of my time and energy.I will leave the past blog posts up and available for people to access, since I get a steady stream of searches for certain posts (the ones on forgiveness, family estrangement, and amends). And you just ever know, you may hear from me in unexpected ways when the spirit moves me:-)

I thank you for receiving my words and for occasionally responding to me either in person or in posts. Thanks for being so self reflective and vulnerable yourselves.Thank you for absorbing the love of God more deeply as a result. God really does adore us…and counts on us to be extensions of his love in the world.

Thanks to all my guest bloggers as well. I’ve enjoyed and learned from your posts. You’re written amazing and heartfelt essays, reflections and poetry. You have made this space shine with your words. Jessica Sanborn, Michael Bischoff, Tracy Mooty, Bobbie Spradley, Barry Thomas, Chelsea Forbrook.

Today the last post is from my friend, Barry Thomas. As you will see he pulled a little trick on me, knowing I was stepping down from blogging. Since I don’t edit guest blogger’s words I am self consciously allowing him to shower me with love–on Valentine’s Day.

So I leave you with deep gratitude and appreciation for this opportunity to reach out to the wider world with God’s love.


Janet Hagberg


On God’s Mind

In his book Surrender to Love, David Benner opens the first chapter with a simple exercise. He invites his readers to do this: “Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?” What a great question! Simple, yet deep and thought provoking. A person’s response to this exercise is very telling. My experience has been that the word that comes to mind for most people is the word: disappointment. The first reaction of most people is that God is disappointed with them. I believe most people know intellectually that God loves them. Their head tells them God loves them, but their reaction says something different. Our behavior and emotions point to what the heart truly believes. Why is that? Why is there a difference in beliefs between our heads and our hearts?

In John chapter 8, Jesus has some very strong words to say about Satan. Jesus says Satan is a liar and calls him “the father of lies.” Jesus also says that lies are Satan’s native language. Satan uses lies to get a person’s heart to believe something different than what their head is telling them. And he is really, really good at it. Most of the time these lies come in the form of messages that play in our heads: “You’re not good enough”; “You don’t have what it takes”; “You’re not lovable”; “You are bad”; “You are ugly”; “You are stupid”; You fill in the blank: “You are___________”. When a person believes lies such as these, it is difficult for he or she to believe that God’s love and grace is for them (which is another lie Satan gets us to believe).

So what about you? What is your response when you imagine God thinking about you? If the answer is something other than love and delight, then there is some work to do. In order to grow spiritually, most of us Christians need to do some work around the lies we believe: lies we believe about ourselves, about others and about God.



Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?

What are some of the negative messages that play in your head about you? About God?

What is something that is true about you (that counter acts the negative message)?

How would your life be different if you were to see yourself the way God sees you?






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