The Blessings Surrounding Us
About the Guest
What is a blessing — both receiving it, and blessing those we love? Author Alan Wright offers simple, biblical skills to impart life-changing affirmations.
The Blessings Surrounding Us
Alan: I know that every single person needs this—we need it as much as any plant needs water, as much as any child needs physical bread—we need this. We’re designed for it; we’re made for it. God made us to receive positive, affirming, spiritually-based, biblically-laden vision over our lives that helps us know who we are. And if we don’t get it, we’re going to run into all kind of problems.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So one of the first things I remember about your dad,—
Dave: —when we started dating,—
Ann: Oh, this is going to be interesting.
Dave: Well, I mean, the first thing I remember, honestly, was him barring me from your house—
Dave: —saying, “You’ll never date Dave Wilson.”
Ann: And well-deserved. [Laughter]
Dave: Why? [Laughter] I still don’t know why he did that.
Ann: Because you had such a terrible reputation, and he was your coach.
Dave: We’re not going into that.
Ann: And my brothers were going to school with you. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, I guess I did have a pretty bad reputation—I wasn’t a follower of Christ yet—but now, I am, when I went to court you. Here’s what I remember though, and it’s still true to this day—
Dave: —he was a man that blessed others with his words.
Dave: He still does it—I mean, in a restaurant—he even did it with me once he finally allowed me to date you. When I came over to date you, I remember him saying, “This young man is a quality young man. Dave Wilson, I’ve loved being your coach.” I mean, it was like—I didn’t know what he was doing then—but I’ve watched him do it a thousand times. You see a person’s face light up when he starts talking about them.
Ann: —which is super interesting, because when my dad was in assisted living, the nurses that worked there would all congregate in his room. I told him one time: “Dad, the reason they congregate there is because they’re being blessed by you.” I think this is so true, because we’re all drawn to people that bless us.
Dave: Yes, we all long to be blessed.
We have in the studio today, Alan Wright, who is an author, a pastor; and I think, if anybody knows the power of blessing, it’s this guy. Alan, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Alan: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Dave, Ann. I’ve just loved already being with you guys and thank you for the privilege.
Dave: I tell you what, I mean, we’ve never met until we had lunch today You’re a little bit like her dad. Immediately, you feel this sense of blessing in the room because, I mean, looking at you now—you’re smiling—you bring a blessing in your life. Has that always been the case?
Alan: Thank you. I don’t think always. I think I might have always wanted to be authentically caring about the well-being and wanting the very best for others, but I don’t think it was always my case. I think that I was—as a child through the brokenness of childhood and dad’s struggles with alcohol—the internal soul messages that I took hold of I had to get healed of a lot; because if our soul’s hurting, then we’re going to be thinking about ourselves.
So I had to have a lot of healing of the soul and to learn about the power of blessing. I think they go hand in hand. Because until we’re really set free from self-absorption, it’s hard to be others-centered. But wow, I tell you: “What joy there is in taking delight in seeing someone else flourish—and having faith for others to flourish—maybe, more faith than they have themselves.”
Dave: Obviously, we’re going to talk about your book, The Power to Bless: How to Speak Life and Empower the People You Love; but I want to know a little bit about you. I know you’re a pastor in North Carolina, but tell us a little about your family.
Alan: Well, I have a beautiful wife of 36 years,—
Alan: —who is a better teacher and preacher and communicator and storyteller than I could ever be. She is wonderful in the sense of she is full of wonder, always has been; she celebrates life. At first, when I met her, I thought there was something wrong with her: “You can’t celebrate that much”; but she taught me all of that.
We’ve got two grown kids. Bennett’s been married for four years, and he’s just starting a law practice; and our daughter Abby just graduated from college and took a job and moved to Washington, DC, to work with a PR firm.
Dave: And you’re a radio show host?
Alan: A host of a radio program/daily program that’s featured around the nation for over ten years now. We pastor this wonderful church/multi-site church in North Carolina, and I write books. So life is good, and life is full.
Dave: So why The Power to Bless? I mean, you start the book, saying, “We all long for the blessing; and if we don’t get it, we go on a search for it.” Explain: “What is the blessing?”
Alan: It has become for me much more than an idea of a book or a little practice that’s part of your life. It is, in many ways, the substance of life, relationship, and ministry. This is, in many ways, a life message for me that I began learning about early in our marriage. I didn’t know anything about it. I began to read a little bit about how the Hebrew patriarchs blessed their children. I remember being mesmerized by the sense of raw power that was being released in blessing.
I remember the first time really reading the stories of Isaac and his twin boys, Jacob and Esau, and the familiar story how Jacob, that conniver and deceiver, stole the blessing by pretending to be his brother Esau. And when he tricked their blinded father, old Isaac, into blessing the wrong son, I was just amazed. The text said that once he realized he had blessed the wrong son—and I thought, “Well, he’ll just/in America, we’d say:—
Dave: —“My mistake.”
Alan: —“’My mistake; come on in here, Esau. Let me bless you instead.’”
Not so; instead, the text said he trembled violently; and he said, “I have blessed him; and indeed, he will be blessed.” I started becoming fascinated with this irrevocable power that mysteriously weaves its way all throughout the Scripture. It’s everywhere: it runs through the patriarchs; and it runs all the way into Jesus’s ministry, where everybody wanted to bring their children—not just so He could pray for them—so He could bless them. What was He doing?
Ann: Alan, I’ve been fascinated about that for years; because I’ve thought the same thing. They always laid their hands on them; it was their right hand that had the most blessing in it. I always thought, “Where does that power?—is it through his words?—is it prophetic?” What did you come to discover?
Alan: Yes; it’s all of that in the power of blessing. This is something that is so pervasive in the Bible that, in many ways, I would say you could say this is the theme: “In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve; and then He blessed them. And then He said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”
I think that, for much of my life—and maybe our listeners can understand if you’ve come from any measure of brokenness—there can be a thought that gets into the child’s soul that: “If I perform well, then I’ll be blessed.” I think that’s the way of our culture: “Prove yourself and show us your worth; and then, maybe, we’ll rise up and bless you.” How interesting—not so with God—blessing with God was not the reward for productivity; it’s the fuel for it. He blessed Adam and Eve and then He said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” So when I see all of this in the Scripture, I became fascinated by it.
Then through a process of soul healing, and looking at my own life—and being willing to take an honest self-inventory of the ways that maybe blessing wasn’t spilling out of my mouth towards my wife the way I wanted it to in our early years—and starting to understand/I started realizing: “This may be one of the most important things for me to learn.”
Thankfully, God began showing me about it. I, not only became a student, I just began to put it in practice. So long before we had children, we were already building our household on the idea of blessing—much more than mere encouragement—I’m talking about that positive and even prophetic faith-filled vision that you speak over someone else’s life. It’s rooted in Scripture and confidence that it can come to pass. And when people receive that, watching, then they can rise up to meet it. It became the most important principle in our parenting and in my pastoring of a church every day.
Ann: Well, take us back; because you didn’t have that, necessarily, growing up. Tell us about your childhood and what that was like, because you didn’t get that.
Alan: I loved my dad: he was a TV newsman, and he was brilliant. He was so intelligent, and I loved him. In fourth grade, he called a family meeting; and it was the only time I ever saw him cry. He said he was going to be leaving, and I didn’t know why. I had only begun to understand what/then I would later understand that Dad had a lifelong struggle with alcohol. He had times of sobriety and other times not so.
When you grow up in that environment, the child internalizes all of this. Nobody ever said, “Alan, if you will be better, your dad will come back home”; nobody ever said that; nobody would want me to believe that. My dad was never abusive; he never held it over my head. He never said, “Alan, you need to make straight A’s or else I’ll never be proud of you.” He never said, “You need to be somebody special.” Of course, he was not like that; but what did I think?—what did I believe?
So those internal messages of shame: “I have something wrong with me; I must not measure up,” and “There’s something wrong with my family.” And you know, if your dad is an alcoholic, you don’t want to bring people over; because you don’t know: “Maybe he’s drinking that day.”
On one hand, I’m so proud of him; and I love him so much. And yet, he was this man—who was distant because of alcohol and distant because he wasn’t there—he was also a man, like so many in his generation, who never had seen it modeled or knew how to express his feelingsdidn’t know how to just look deeply in my eyes and say: “Alan, here’s how I see who you are as a gifted person. Here’s some of the richest traits and attributes that I see in you…” “Here is what I believe that God could do with your life…” and “Here’s a destiny I’d like to speak over your life…” I never had a moment like that.
One time, when I was in college, my first year, I made straight A’s; and I let him know. He sent me a note and said he was proud of me. I held onto it, because I’d never had anything like that.
At a time when Dad, after all three of us in the family—my two brothers and I—we were all grown. We’re growing/we’re growing spiritually, and Dad is going through a time of growing also. I said, “Let’s get some counseling together”; and we did. In one of the counseling sessions, I said I’d really/it’s something I’d like—I said, “Dad, I’d like you to bless me.” He didn’t know what I was talking about; and interestingly, the counselor didn’t know what I was talking about. I said, “I’m not talking about something that you say after somebody sneezes [Laughter] or what you say before the meal. I’m talking about speaking a positive vision. I want to know why you’re proud of me. I want to know what you see in me, Dad.”
Ann: —and you told him that.
Alan: I told him that.
Ann: How did he respond?
Alan: He said, “Sure.” He went home; and he brought back, at our next counseling session, three index cards. He’d written out a small blessing for each of us—it wasn’t profound; it wasn’t scriptural—it was the best that he could do. He wrote on his card/he said: “When we brought you home”—I was the youngest of three boys—"we brought you home; your older brother, Mark, said, ‘Why did we have to get him?’” [Laughter] He said, “I now know why we would need you.” It’s small, but I could cry about it right now; because to a malnourished soul, that’s like a treasured morsel.
I talk to so many people, who they’ve never had their dad, once, look them in the eye and affirm something to them. I knew that I needed it. I know that every single person needs this—we need it as much as any plant needs water, as much as any child needs physical bread—we need this. We’re designed for it; we’re made for it. God made us to receive positive, affirming, spiritually-based, biblically-laden vision over our lives that helps us know who we are. And if we don’t get it, we’re going to run into all kind of problems.
My problems weren’t outward; I was the conformist. I was the guy, who was going to try to perform; but inwardly, it produced angst. Inwardly, it made me feel like I’m striving. Because, Dave and Ann, I just think everybody in this world is either, who’s working hard—and that’s not everybody—but people who are trying, they’re either doing so because they want to prove themselves worthy, so they’ll be blessed; or they know themselves blessed, and they’re just looking to make a difference, joyfully.
I always wanted to be the latter; but for a long time in my life, Ann, I was the former. God healed me of so much and showed me so much that I want everybody to understand about this principle: the blessing.
Dave: What do you think would have happened/how old were you when your dad did that?
Alan: I was in my 30s.
Dave: I mean, some of us would think, “Gee whiz, you’re a man now. You’ve gotten beyond that. You never got it, but you’re good”; right? But you weren’t in a sense. I mean, you might have looked fine and been able to accomplish a lot of things; but deep down, your soul is still longing for the blessing at 30 years of age.
Alan: Oh, the un-affirmed soul longs for blessing for a whole life. You could be 95 and be longing. There is no substitute other than receiving it, so I sought it from him. And then, also learned the value of finding spiritual fathers—you know, authentic fellowship, where our accountability is not: “Hey, quit doing that behavior,”—our accountability is blessing; it is: “This is who God made you to be,” “This is your design,” “This is how I see your life.” I began to find people, who knew how to speak that into me: to receive it in order to give it.
Dave: Yes; I was going to ask/that was what my question would be: “If you hadn’t got it that day from your dad—maybe he refuses to or says: ‘I don’t know how to do it,’ or ‘I don’t think it’s that important,’—so there’s a lot of people that never do get what you got;—
Alan: There are so many.
Dave: —“What happens?”
Alan: Well, A) I think that all of us need to be on a journey of healing our souls so that we let the love of Christ—the assurance of that love from the deposit of the Holy Spirit, who is our guarantee of our inheritance—letting God through His Word, through His presence, through His people, letting the gospel go more deeply and richly into our souls until we know that we know that we know we are accepted in the beloved. The healing that we get from knowing ourselves—[that we are] loved by the Father and blessed of the Father, regardless of our performance—that’s where we’re healed; but we need people on this journey.
I tell in the book the story of my daughter Abby. Our daughter Abby/she came home and said she had an assignment. She had to give a speech. I said, “Okay, Abby, I’ll help you on it.” I mean, in the first place, part of blessing is just you have somebody who is for you; right? That’s what we do as parents: “I’m for you. I’m not going to do it for you; but I’m for you, and I’m with you every step of the way.”
She went and she gave her speech. I said, “Let me hear it.” There I sat on the blue couch in the living room, and she stood up. This awkward teenage girl giving her first public speech to an audience of one. I don’t even remember what it was about; but I remember sitting there, spellbound by the way that she had a natural flow and rhythm, and inflection points in her voice, and content that was clear. It was just great! I could hardly believe it.
She got done; I looked at her; I said, “Abby,”—I said—“you have a communication gift.” I said, “That was wonderful.” She giggled a little bit and said, “Oh, Dad, you’re just saying that.” I said, “No; I am a communicator. This is what I do in my life. Now, let me tell you everything that I saw that was very special about that.” I get a little emotion with this because it went into her.
Ann: Yes, it did.
Alan: It went into her.
Dave: What do you mean?
Alan: Well, at first, she resisted; but then she believed me. I had to tell her over and over how gifted she was until she finally/we got her into a national speech organization. She said she didn’t want to do it; I said, “I really think you’d like it.” Her very first speech contest was at a national level. One of her speeches made it into—her very first time—made it in the top five.
Alan: The next year, she qualified for the national tournament, which was a big deal in this particular speech organization. But instead, we had scheduled to go to Papua New Guinea on a mission trip; because we had been supporting a missionary who, for
30 years, had been working, translating the Bible into the native language of a tiny island of Papua New Guinea, and we had [previously] committed to go. She had to give up going; and she, as far as she knew, might never make it to nationals again. We went; and we had the time of our lives, watching a people get the Word of God for the first time in their written language.
She came back the next year; she wrote a speech on it—she did it locally, regionally—and it qualified for the national tournament in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis. They had the national tournament—and through the grueling event, came to the end—and her name was announced as the national champion.
Alan: Two years later, she won another national championship. She’s just delightful to listen to, especially as she speaks of the things of God.
I just wonder how many people have a gift that wasn’t affirmed or watered by the power of blessing. I look at the difference in what she had from me, alongside of her, being able to authentically discern what her gifts are. See; I think that’s the thing we need. Our culture is so full of the lie that tells you: “Just look inside yourself and find yourself,” “Look for your inner guide; don’t let anyone tell you who you are.”
It’s gone so far that our children are just utterly confused with no one speaking into their life, and that’s not God’s design. God’s design is for people—who love, who know the truth, who have faith, and who really want to see someone flourish with authentic discernment—help them know: “Here’s who you are,” and then we grow into it.
We raised our kids in that. It was almost like an experiment, because I hadn’t lived in it myself firsthand. It has been a beautiful thing, just to watch the power of blessing at work.
Ann: I think, as I hear you, Alan—and I get emotional about it, too—because as you talked about the malnourished soul, so many of us haven’t had the blessing. I know that we talked about my dad at the opening of how he does give blessing, but he didn’t do that when we were growing up; he changed. The only time I would ever hear him say something positive about me, when I was little, was when it was to someone else. I remember thinking, “Wait; he does think something good about me?”
I think so many of us long for that blessing. We long for somebody to see us and point out—“Oh, I see you; and I see who God made you. I see the gifts that He put in you,”—just as you did your daughter. That was such a powerful illustration. We have so much power in our words; but sometimes, we’re so lost—of looking at ourselves and our deficits, or our striving for someone to see us or someone to approve of us—that we don’t always give it back.
I think it would be interesting to talk more about that: “Why don’t we give it?” Because when I listen to you, I’m so inspired—like your daughter—of course, she’s going to go on and do those things, because you’re calling out what God had put in her. And what power God has given us to, not only see it, but to say it.
Dave: I tell you what—just listening to both of you—actually, my thought is: “I really don’t want to go another day without using the power to bless somebody else,” whether as a dad to my kids or as a neighbor to my neighbor. I think the church/the followers of Christ should be known as people who bless others; because that’s going to be a magnet to draw them to the One who’s blessed us. I mean, honestly, I would say to a dad or mom today/right now: “If you haven’t today spoken words of life and blessing over your child, you’ve got today; do it.”
Shelby: I think we’re all familiar with how to tear down people, whether verbally or in our minds. Yet it’s difficult to do the work of blessing people: building them up, communicating something that encourages them, that points them to the Lord. All over Scripture we see this exhortation that we are blessed in order to be a blessing. God blesses us that we might bless other people.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking with Alan Wright. He’s the author of The Power to Bless: How to Speak Life and Empower the People You Love. This is the kind of book that you could read yourself or give to a friend or a family member that would encourage you and give you some practical insight on how to bless others. We want to make this available to you, as a way to say, “Thank you,” with a donation of any amount at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or you can give us a call at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to make your donation. Thanks, in advance, for your support; and we hope you enjoy this book. I think you will.
If this conversation with Alan Wright and Dave and Ann Wilson today, or any of the FamilyLife programs, have been helpful for you, we’d love for you to share today’s podcast with a friend or a family member. And wherever you get your podcasts, it can really advance the gospel effort of what we’re doing at FamilyLife Today if you’ll scroll down and rate and review us.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to explore this topic of blessing others by specifically talking about how we can bless our kids and the kind of major impact that can have on their lives. That’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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