Papa's Blessings: The Gifts That Keep Giving by Greg Bourgond
***Full disclosure: The author sent me this book with the understanding that I would review it.***
I've never been into the men's movement. When I was fresh out of college, churches were going gaga over Promise Keepers, a nationwide movement and series of rallies designed to get men more active in their families and their churches. Lots of my friends went to PK events and benefited from them; I always resisted. Maybe it's an authority issue for me, but for whatever reason, I wasn't interested.
Likewise with the late-modern "focus on the family" that characterizes much of contemporary evangelicalism and coincides pretty naturally with the evangelical men's movement. There's a common convergence between the father wound, on the one hand, and the calling to be a good father, on the other. I have a good relationship with my dad and have yet to discern a father wound, and I don't have kids, so my focus has largely been on other things. As such, I've not read much on the subject of Greg Bourgond's Papa's Blessings. Bourgond has as much experience in what I might call the "culture of blessing" as I have a lack of experience. In Papa's Blessings we are introduced to his family, his proteges, his mentor, and other people who taken together make up his culture of blessing.
It's important to acknowledge that "blessing" incorporates a much broader set of phenomena than what makes up Bourgond's focus. He offers a helpful brief explanation of three types of blessing: the "action-oriented" blessing, in which we notice need and work to address it; the "responsive" blessing, in which we notice possibility (or, negatively, an absence of hope) and speak hope into it; and the "strategic" blessing, in which we notice the people in our lives, speak meaning into their future and mark significant moments of transition. Strategic blessings offer a unique vitality and momentum to the people being blessed, and indeed the community witnessing the blessing. Bourgond is writing about strategic blessing, and he's an expert on it.
The logic of strategic blessing is found in the Scriptures, principally in a few key passages--Jacob stealing his brother's blessing, Jacob later blessing two of his grandchildren in reverse order, the apostle Paul commissioning his protege Timothy to lead the second generation of the church. Each of those is a unique story, of course; I would have liked to see a fuller exposition of the scriptural grounding for blessings, one that synthesizes these various stories. But really that's not the point of this book. In Papa's Blessings Bourgond is offering a roadmap. We watch him bless each of his grandchildren and see a picture of the "wall of blessing" where those statements are permanently installed. Every time the kids come over, we learn, they visit the wall, and the blessing is reiterated. We watch Bourgond bless his protege, and in turn we watch Bourgond be blessed by his mentor. We read the words and get a good mental image of the setting in which each blessing takes place. We feel the hand of blessing on our shoulders, feel the breath of blessing on our foreheads. We find ourselves observing a culture in which blessing is normal, and we see the benefits: values being internalized as personal virtues, vocations being accepted and undertaken, new opportunities being opened and embraced.
If you're drawn to the culture of blessing, but are a bit unclear about their real value or confused about how to get started, this book will be useful. It reads quick, offers a ton of examples and suggestions, and is warm and familial in tone. Read it, and you'll find yourself well on the way to creating a culture of blessing in your own context.
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