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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














…and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

Each of the last three summers in July, our family has been graced by the addition of a new grandchild. In 2012 we welcomed Caleb, in 2013 Evelyn, and in 2014 Joshua. Since Caleb is now almost three, we have started going on what he likes to call “adventures.” Recently, we spent a morning together at the Richardson Nature Center. We put on a show with the various animals in the puppet theatre, played the wildlife matching game, sat (almost) quietly in the outdoor observation room learning to use our binoculars, employed our strainer and magnifying glass to explore pond water life, and played imaginary games inside the big tree branch fort in the woods. Happily exhausted and hungry after a full morning of activity, we were walking hand in hand to the car with the promise of a Dairy Queen lunch ahead when Caleb called my name. “Dita,” he said, in a rather reflective tone. “Yes, honey,” I responded. “You are a really fun girl!”

As silly as this might sound, those beautiful words meant more to me than I can begin to express. In the weeks since, I have continued to return to that sweet exchange countless times in my mind and I have also happily shared that story with just about everyone. Each time I recall it, I find myself encouraged, heartened, and inspired. I am at a juncture in life where I have a strong desire to rediscover parts of myself that have been more dormant than I’d like, to resurrect my spontaneity, creativity, and playfulness! I have long felt that children are very discerning, wise, and honest, so the fact that my grandson deemed me not just a fun girl, but a really fun girl felt like a true call, an engaging invitation, the most timely and meaningful blessing.

Receiving that wonderful gift prompted me to think of other blessings I’ve received, precious words shared at tender times that continue to echo through my soul with their goodness—my best friend telling me that she always feels she’s come to know herself so much more deeply having spent time with me; my husband calling me his soul mate; my mother, on her death bed, telling me what a beautiful family I have; my son-in-law sending me a hand written letter explaining his decision to call me mom.

I also found myself remembering powerful blessings I’ve witnessed and some that I have offered myself. When a dear family friend was dying and had his family gathered around his bed, he chose to take that opportunity to share a final word of wisdom, encouragement, or challenge with each person. These messages have been remembered and referenced often in the years that have followed. As part of a Bible study I was in, I was encouraged to write notes to all the people in my life who had helped shape and influence my walk of faith. I wrote to over twenty different people and spoke specifically of how each person had blessed me through his or her example, encouragement, knowledge, or commitment. Some of those people still remind me of what it was like to receive those letters. One year when three cousins in our family were all graduating from high school, I suggested we celebrate them with a sending circle where all the relatives literally gathered around them in a circle, to name gifts, strengths, and positive memories associated with each graduate. Those kids left that day, soon on their way to college, having been wrapped in the love and positive regard of their family members. Several years ago at our large, extended family Christmas, we enhanced our tradition of gift giving by adding the gift of words. Before a person would open his or her gift, the givers would take a moment to affirm things they most admired, appreciated, or enjoyed about the receiver. We soon learned that everyone was blessed by hearing the many wonderful attributes that were highlighted.

Of course the Bible is filled with all sorts of stories that include blessings. One of my favorites is from Numbers 6:24-27: “The Lord bless and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Our church often sings this blessing at the end of services and also invites us to say it as we extend our hands of blessing over various groups of congregants as they venture forth to camp, the mission field, or their work in the world. Because of its importance in our lived experience, our youngest daughter asked her grandfather to pray this blessing over her and her husband at the conclusion of their wedding last September. Shortly thereafter, he passed away, but these precious words continue to echo in their hearts.


In his beautiful book of poetry To Bless The Space Between Us, author John O’Donohue includes a section at the end on how to retrieve what he feels is the lost art of blessing. He explains that in his native Ireland, the act of blessing is part of daily life and that not just clergy but everyone can offer blessing. He encourages his readers to learn to bless not only others but themselves as well. By the blessings he includes—for beginnings, desires, thresholds, homecomings, states of heart, callings, and endings—he seems to suggest that nothing is outside the reach of a heartfelt blessing. Best of all, he defines a blessing as “a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, to heal, to strengthen.” He goes on to describe exactly what I recently experienced with my dear Caleb, that “a blessing calls forth wholeness and forebrightens the way.”

Within the next few months, I am overjoyed to report that we will be celebrating the arrival of two more grandchildren. As you might imagine, I have already written a blessing that I am praying as we await their arrival.





Baby Blessing

Our loving and gracious God,

As we come before you in prayer today, we stand on tip toe, holding our breath, eyes wide with anticipation , awaiting the arrival of our brand new family members!

For these precious babies we pray:

~May your journey here be smooth and safe

~May you hold fast to the spark of the Divine that you carry within you

~May you have a healthy body, a keen mind, an adventurous spirit and a deeply caring heart

~May you be blessed with a strong sense of self worth and always know how cherished you are by your Creator, your family, and your friends

~May you bless this world in countless ways by who you are and by how you choose to live


And for the parents we pray:

~May your hearts be filled with peace and joy as you approach this special delivery

~May you trust that the beautiful love you share will only expand as you welcome this sweet child into your family

~May you embrace this amazing opportunity to grow with your child in wonder and in awe of our beautiful world

~May you always look to this child’s Divine Parent for guidance and direction

~And may you know that our family is an unending circle of love and support, with you and for you throughout this lifelong adventure

May it be so. Amen.


They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.

 John of the Cross



Reflection Questions

~What feelings or experiences do you have around blessings?

~How have you been blessed by others?

~How have you blessed others?

~What are the ways you bless yourself?

~Is there someone whose blessing you are longing for or who you are longing to bless? How might you create the opportunity for this to happen?



Warm Greetings! I’m Tracy Mooty, a really fun girl!

I am one who enjoys listening intently, making meaning, and deepening my capacity for joy. Janet and I first met at Colonial Church years ago, and, thanks to her mostly gentle prodding, we’ve partnered to offer all sorts of programs and retreats. She’s also the reason I’ve entered into this adventure! Thank you, Janet!


May you go forth to bless, to be blessed and to be a blessing!


c Tracy Mooty, 2015. All rights reserved.


















Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are Those who are Persecuted


Verse 10:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)


You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you deeper into God’s kingdom. (The Message)


Blessed are those who are dislocated for the cause of justice; their new home is the province of the universe. (Aramaic)


Who does Jesus commend? Jesus saved for last the ones who side with Heaven even when any fool can see it’s the losing side and all you get for your pain is pain. Looking into the faces of his listeners, he speaks to them directly for the first time. “Blessed are you,” He says. (Frederick Buechner)


Reflections on this Beatitude:
Which of the four versions do you most resonate with?
Have you ever been persecuted (or belittled or questioned or mocked or written off) for your commitment to faith or to God?


How did it change you?


What could you do to “side with Heaven” in your current life, even if it caused you some pain?

Beatitude Poem

French Pantoum form. This poem uses words that suggest the beatitudes of Matthew 5 and Luke 6 but is written in a lyrical poetic style of deliberate repeats called a French Pantoum. Read it out loud to get a more intimate experience of the blessings.

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

Blessed are you who learn to love yourself

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who show compassion to others

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who bring your gifts to the world

Blessed are you who embrace your shadows

For your life will be transformed

Blessed are you who receive God’s unconditional love

Janet O. Hagberg, 2012. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this poem

After each line ponder how you have been blessed in this way and pause to remember how each of these blessings has touched your life. If you have not felt blessed by some of them and desire that, just ask for that blessing. The core blessing is to receive God’s unconditional love.

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