Any of the recommended books sounded interesting to me. I decided to take a trip to the library and see what I could find. I had my favorites selected, but the reality was I was at the library’s mercy. Unfortunately, they didn’t have copies of most of the books. The book that most interested me that they did have I decided was too long of a read. So I browsed other books with related topics and checked out this one by a professor and former foreign policy analyst, Constantine Pleshakov. Turned out to scratch the itch.
One could certainly read this book faster than I did, but I wanted to sit in it more than just do a quick read. Truthfully, I would probably need to read it several times to fully grasp all the history and political nuances addressed. Yet, I’ve gained so much from this read that otherwise I wouldn’t possess.
My one trip to that area of Europe was ten years ago. I went to Belarus as one of several ESL teachers for a week-long schooling. That glimpse was a blink, but an excellent thumbnail into the mindset of those who face the dilemma between holding on to their past or ferociously determining their future. An individual making that life choice can be stuck for much of their life. Imagine the nth degree reached when it’s an entire nation or region.
For anyone facing that dilemma but more importantly for the leaders and citizens of Ukraine, I share this blessing from Numbers 6:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
The vast majority of us base our thoughts about this war on what we read online or hear on the news. I encourage you to do yourself and the Ukrainians a favor-take the time to do your own digging. You’ll benefit more from conducting your own dig that looking in someone else’s hole.
Some are good. We find out things that the person did that mattered, that impacted, that altered courses, that showered generosity without attention. We read things they wrote, produced, created that uncover meaning. The world is blessed by unexpected surprise.
Some aren’t good. We find out things that the person did that shocks, that hurts, that damages, that produces unanswerable questions. We hear things they chose, hid, manufactured that defy understanding. The world is grayed by unexplainable bewilderment.
Yesterday through a podcast episode I was reminded of the value of gratitude, even more so the importance of writing it down.
When I woke up this morning, I had a WhatsApp message from a pastor in Egypt sharing an update and requesting prayer. I met him in 2018 on a couple of trips to Jordan. Anytime I hear from those Jordanian contacts I’m reminded of the differences in our worlds. West vs. Middle East. Levels of freedom, finances, housing, opportunities, health services-basically every facet of life.
As I prayed for him I was convicted of taking for granted these life blessings that are better than most people in the world. So I followed through with the prompting to write down what I’m grateful for, but I did it differently than before. I made a list of sentences that had a fill-in-the-blank. The sentence was, “My is better than most.” Got a little more real, more thankful, more humbling, more worshipful.
Here are some of my sentences:
My finances are better than most
My health is better than most
My home is better than most
My security is better than most
My freedom is better than most
My future is better than most
My family is better than most
What words would you use to fill in the blank? How blessed are you better than most?
Today I heard a missionary talk about the power of blessing. She lives in a country where Islam is the norm, and she has learned that Muslims place importance on the practice of blessing a newborn. She was asked how Americans bless newborns. When she answered that people just say congratulations, she was told that congratulations is not a blessing. This made her think about the practice of blessing and how it could impact people.
As she read scriptures to find examples of blessings, the power of one word was evident. The word is may. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed hearing the use of this word by pastors, particularly when they are giving a challenge to their congregation. But when you read different scriptures that include may, you are reading some excellent examples of how to bless others. Here are three examples in Paul’s writings:
Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice. Romans 15:15-16
Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus-the great Shepherd of the sheep-through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
May we share the power of blessing through spoken and written word. May we experience the power of God’s word spoken to us and through us.