Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ACHOO!! God Bless You!

In church on Sunday, right during the pastor’s message, here came that annoying tickle in my nose again. I tried to hold it back, but it was no use. I had to let it go! "ACHOO!" Immediately, the kind lady behind me whispered, “God bless you!” I replied “Thank you!” Then, within 2 minutes, there it came again, and this time, the gentlemen beside me repeated “God bless you!” Immediately, the thought came “I’ll take as many of those blessings as I can get!”

Yesterday, I was inspired for this day's blog post when we had another one of those “Wallace family moments”. We were having morning devotion, just after breakfast, and Larry gave a walloping man-sized sneeze. Staci quickly remarked “Please cover your mouth when you sneeze!” And I said, “God bless you! Sneezes are an opportunity to give AND receive blessings and I can use as many blessings as I can get!” Then, in resounding Staci style (and pictured here), were these words of blessing to her precious husband: “Honey, I bless you in the city. I bless you in the field. You are blessed coming in, blessed going out. You are the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath. You are a king that is favored at the city gates. No weapon that is formed against you shall not prosper. I bless you in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ!” Now that’s what I call a “God bless you” because those are some of the words God spoke over His people in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 if they would be obedient! How’s that for a “God bless you” and what if when we said those three little words, we actually were thinking those words from Deuteronomy over the recipient – not casually, but intentionally.

Discussion ensued about my own sneezing spurt on Sunday. We all agreed that it must be the pollen, as seen on our trash cans outside. But pollen or no pollen, what if we were instruments for God to bless His people? It’s a rarity to let a sneeze shoot out without someone uttering those “Bless you” words.

Of course, that family discussion inspired me to research sneezing on some online sites. I found that sneezing is a way for our bodies to get rid of some irritant, like dust, pollen, pet dander, pepper, or even a tiny bug that flew up our nose. Whatever the irritant, our body knows that it must get rid of the problem right away. A sneeze begins with a tickle. This message is then sent to a “sneeze center” in our brain, where it dispatches the message to our muscles. And not only is our nose and mouth involved, but even our abdomen, diaphragm, chest, vocal chords, and eyelids all play a role in a full-blown sneeze. They work together to expel 2,000-5,000 bacteria-filled droplets into the air. That’s a lot of germs floating around! This explains why we cover our mouths when we sneeze, preferably with a tissue that can be thrown away. WOW! That impresses upon me, once again, the magnitude of God's creative genius.

Further, in my research, I found that we have Pope Gregory1 to thank for this tradition. He came from a very religious family. His strong background and steadfast faith in God enabled Pope Gregory (later “Saint” Gregory) to be a powerful leader at a critical time in history. In Rome in the 590s, Pope Gregory summoned the people to join together to march in the streets, arm in arm, asking God for forgiveness and for an end to the bubonic plague that was ravaging their city. He asked priests to lead people from all seven different regions of the city to the Basilica. Whenever anyone sneezed (which was a symptom of the plague), he asked that they immediately say, “God bless you!” as a prayer to ward off the plague. Their prayers were finally answered and at some point after this procession, the plague ended.

So, are we being too casual with saying "God bless you!"? The words bless, blessed, and blessing are found over 500 times in the Bible. As I said to my kids, I can use as many blessings as I can get! For sure I come away with these certainties from God's Word:

~ It is good and right to bless the Lord. He is worthy of all my praise. “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, all that is within me, Bless His holy name.” Psalm 103:1
~ Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. It isn't just words. It's the actual putting forth of our will for the good of another person. It always involves God, because when we will the good of another person, we realize only God is capable of bringing that. So we naturally say, "God bless you!"

So, today, my FB friends and family, I offer Aaron's words of blessing to the Israelites to you as I say "God bless you!"

"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." Numbers 6:24-27

Now when we hear “bless you” or “God bless you”, we can thank the giver of those words and say "He has". Thanks, St Gregory!