CHURCH CORNER: Blessing necessary for happy, healthy life

I came to Enumclaw as one of the chaplains for Enumclaw Regional Hospital when they began partnering with the Franciscan Health System. That was almost two and half years ago. Last week we began a new part of the journey as we moved our first patients into St. Elizabeth Hospital. This event has given this chaplain pause as I reflect on the spiritual side of what it means for this day to arrive.

The word that comes to my mind when I think of the past couple of years is “blessing.” My fellow chaplains and I were greeted with open arms by the people who worked at the hospital. They let us know right away that we were welcome. They weren’t necessarily sure of what it was we did, but we were welcomed nonetheless. That was a blessing. As we got more involved we became acquainted with the members of the Plateau Ministerial Association. I began to see how they have worked hand in hand with the hospital for years, in caring for the spiritual needs of the people in the Rainier Foothills area.

As writer and theologian Henri Nouwen says, simply, “To bless means to say good things.” Being a hospital chaplain for 18 years, I believe one of the most needed things in our lives is blessing. We need to uphold and affirm each other daily. It was said a long time ago, in order to be healthy physically, we should receive at least 21 hugs a day. Our spirit needs hugs, too. We need blessing. Chapter 23 of the book of Numbers, in the Bible, says “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” God desires us to bless.

Parents, bless your children that they may in turn bless you. Husbands, bless your wives and wives, bless your mate. Cherish each other. Our world is lacking in blessing. We need to bless our earth by taking care of it and we will be blessed in return. Every day in our emergency rooms I witness families who are holding grudges long overdue for forgiveness. I see children longing for recognition from Dad and Mom, not knowing how to get it in positive ways. I watch people who have struggled for years, holding on to grief because of guilt feelings when blessing from another would have alleviated their suffering. Drug and alcohol use is on the rise from the emptiness and low self esteem folks have for themselves. I believe this stems from the inability to give and receive blessing.

Jesus came to bless us, but we must receive it. The next time someone says to you “thanks for who you are,” receive it. When you are given a good meal, receive it and offer gratitude. When you are told “well done,” receive it and then pass it on. How often when you are told “you are wonderful” do you negate it? Blessing is one of the single, most powerful ways to change the atmosphere around us and our attitude toward ourselves. It also allows others the joy of giving blessing.

I am always amazed at the ways we might decline a blessing. Think about it. At Christmastime, were you given a gift from someone and you didn’t have a gift in return for them? What did you do? Did you receive their gift and enjoy it, or was your joy spoiled because you had no return gift to give your friend? Can we allow ourselves and others the sheer joy of blessing? I encourage you to try it. No strings attached!

St. Elizabeth Hospital has opened and we pray as one door closed and another opened that this will truly be a blessing for the community. On Jan. 15, our new archbishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, came out and dedicated the hospital as a place of healing and service to this community. Then he went through and blessed the people who work in service to you. When you come to visit or if you should find yourself here as a patient, know that together, we are walking on holy ground, because we choose blessing. We extend our hands to you as partners in the healing ministry to the Plateau area, giving back to you in response to the blessing you have all been to us and others for so long. May each of you find joy in being blessed and in blessing one another.

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