John Fuller: Well, no matter the age of your child, you want him or her to do well in life. So often though, we get caught up in the activities of today—the school, the athletics, the chores around the house, the “clean your room” phase. But what are you doing today that makes a difference years from now? We’ll talk about that on “Focus on the Family” with Focus president, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and today’s kind of a 30,000-foot view of where you’re leading your children.
Jim Daly: John, you know, Jean and I, sometimes but not often enough, stop and we’ll sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk about where the kids are at, kind of do an evaluation of how we’re doing as parents. I think it’s an excellent thing to do. I just wish we did it more often actually. Most parents know how to celebrate the good things that our kids do, the achievements. But we sometimes kinda question, is there something more we could do to help them. So, I’m looking forward to this discussion today.
John: And specifically what we’ll talk about today is a concept called “the blessing” and we have Dr. John Trent here to help us understand that, how you can bless your son or daughter. And John is a well-known author and speaker. He’s written over 20 books. He’s been on the broadcast, Jim, I’m sure at least a dozen or maybe two dozen times and we’re really glad to have him back today.
Jim: John, let me formally welcome you back to “Focus on the Family.”
John Trent: Well, thanks. It’s an honor to be here again. Thank you.
Jim: You and I, we just look at each other and start smilin’ (Laughter), because it’s just fun to hang out with you.
John T.: Well, then it’s really been neat and it is kind of amazing. In some ways, you know, our stories have, you know, got some parallels and this whole concept of the blessing, I think is really important to both of us and not just where we’ve been, but also what we can do in the future. So, it’ll be really fun to talk about it.
Jim: Well, let’s talk about it. Define what “the blessing” is–
John T.: Well—
Jim: –Old Testament kind of beginning?
John T.: –the blessing is what you do when someone sneezes, you know. (Laughter)
Jim: Yeah. (Laughter)
John T.: No, no, I’m just kiddin’, but if somebody’s listening and they’re going, “the blessing?” What in the world is that? Well, the word “bless” is really cool. It has two things. Now it’s hard to, you know, as people are driving around and they’re listening to this all over, just picture that you’re in a room like we are and we’re now bowing to each other. So, here we go, we just now bowed to each other. How weird is that? (Laughter) You know, we can’t even picture it most of us, because that’s just not part of our culture, but what it is, “to bless” means, you know what? You are so valuable, I bow before you.
But hang on a minute. There’s two pictures for “bless.”
Because you’re so valuable, I’m gonna add to your life and it’s a picture of adding a coin to a scale. And that’s what we get to do with the blessing. We get to say, “Well, Lord, I want to step towards You and choose life in You and then, because of that life, now I’m really able to bless, because you know, for so many of us, maybe we didn’t get the blessing growing up.
You know, it’s hard to do this sometimes, but once we choose life in Him and He gets us moving towards Him, all of a sudden, we’re in a position where we can really treat somebody like they’re really valuable, you know, even if we’ve had, you know, some struggles. So we want to bless them, because they’re valuable, but we want to add to their life and we’ll share maybe some specifics on how to do that.
Jim: No, that’s good, John. I want to say out of the research, I think what you’re saying is so valid right now. In fact, not long ago I was at Georgetown University discussing this with Robert Putnam, who’s a professor from Harvard. What he identified is that the family fragmentation is a big part of the problem.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: And when it comes to family fragmentation, the data is, I mean overwhelming. Forty-three percent of American children are growing up in homes without their father today.
John F.: Yeah.
Jim: You alluded to this in the beginning. You and I had that experience. Your dad left when you were a baby.
John T.: Two-months old, yeah.
Jim: And my dad was out of my life at about 5-years-old. So we experienced that pain and yet, we were able to rise above it and by God’s grace—
John T.: Right.
Jim: –is the core issue. But to go on from there, children without fathers end up 10 to 20 times more likely to be homeless, commit suicide, drop out of school, become incarcerated. The impact of moms we have studied and it’s wonderful.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: There’s something beautiful there and we all agree to it. What’s really emerging right now in social sciences is the impact of the father, which really has been largely ignored, hasn’t it?
John T.: Yeah and you know, an interesting thing, you know, about that and there are people that struggle because they don’t get their mom’s blessing, okay? But regardless, I’m tellin’ you, every kid in every home, I believe, deserves to know that somebody’s crazy about ’em.
Jim: Well, let’s talk—
John T.: Now …
Jim: –specifically. Look at a girl who—
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –let’s just go with the genders, a little boy, a little girl—
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –who had to grow up like we did–
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –or maybe in even more difficult circumstances, maybe abuse existed. What is that little girl feeling when her father’s blessing isn’t there?
John T.: Well, the challenging part, I was in your office just a little bit ago, Jim and you have this big gumball machine that I know your boys love to come in and these are the big ones, you know.
Jim: Yes, the jaw breaker size.
John T.: Yeah, jaw breaker size. Well, we used to take our oldest daughter, Kari, I used to on Sunday, I would give Cindy a break when she was little. And she wanted to go to the mall, the food court and there was this huge gumball machine. It was a quarter, so it wasn’t cheap. You put in a quarter and you’d flip the handle. You’d help her flip the handle and the gum ball would roll down. You know what I’m talkin’ about? And she’d put it in and she’d look deformed. We’d walk around the mall with this big gumball thing.
Well, one time we were there on a Sunday and I put in the quarter. She cranks the handle, nothin’ comes down. So, I put in another quarter. Okay, now cheap as I am, I’ll go 50 cents, but obviously, it’s broken. There’s no sign on it, but—
John T.: –it’s broken. Now try explaining to a 3-year-old who can see it, I mean, it’s that close. It’s in the glass. She can’t touch it, but it’s that close. Try explaining to a 3-year-old why she can’t have the gumball. Well, now try explaining that to a 13-year-old or a 23-year-old or like I have, with 60- and 70-year-olds who wish all their life they could have had that blessing. And maybe it was right—
John T.: –there. They saw it and so, I think it’s so important for us to say, you know what? This idea of adding to someone’s life to stepping towards them. Now it’s not that you can’t recover. You and I are both poster children, I think for saying, Almighty God can get us moving towards Him and towards others and even forgive the person that never chose to bless us.
‘Cause you know, my dad, I think a big reason why he bailed and then never gave us the blessing is, he never got it.
John T.: And he didn’t know how important it was. So, whether it’s a boy or a girl, I think we just desperately need somebody in our life to just believe that you know, somebody is crazy about ’em. And I think the kids needs to know that Jesus is crazy about ’em, as well.
Jim: Well, and that’s the connection and that’s—
John T.: Exactly.
Jim: –where the brokenness occurs, because we look at our heavenly Father, in certain ways, related to our earthly father.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: It … it’s not a wise thing to do, because earthly fathers are not perfect—
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –like our heavenly Father and earthly father are gonna let you down—
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –and they’re gonna disappoint us; and especially as we go through life, even though we may have hardships, to know that we’ll be there with Him in eternity for eternity.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: That’s important. I mean (Chuckling), that is—
John T.: Oh, it’s huge.
John T.: The night that I became a Christian, my Young Life leader, I had never really been around a Christian man at all. My mom never … my dad left her when I was 2-months old. My mom never remarried and it was my Young Life leader. It was—
John T.: –FCA. But with me, with Young Life, this big ex-offensive tackle, Chico State stud, football guy showed up with our Young Life leader. And I’d go to his home and I’d watch how he treated his kids and how he prayed a blessing over his kids. And I would go mow his yard, just so I could hang out and (Laughing) be around that family.
But the night that I came to know Christ, he handed me a Bible and he gave me, underlined a passage. It was Hebrews 13:5. And guess what Hebrews 13:5 is, B, the second part. It says, “For He Himself”—that’s Jesus—”has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’
Well, he tells me (Laughing), So, John, you can appreciate this. He goes, “Okay, go home and read that 100 times.”
John F.: Hm.
John T.: And I thought he was serious. Okay, now he was being metaphorical. He meant, go home and read this verse a lot, but I’m thinkin’ he’s serious, right? So, I read, “For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I put a mark, like one, two, three, four, like a checkmark.
Jim: So, you did it all the way to 100.
John T.: Well, I get to about 60 and I start weeping and I wasn’t a crier. I’m still not a crier, but it was like, all of a sudden, you know how God’s Word just floods over you and I think Doug knew with my dad having bailed out and not getting the blessing from him, I needed to know, well, you know, that’s not the only kind of dad out there.
John F.: Hm.
John T.: Your heavenly Father is never gonna leave you nor forsake you. Jesus is never gonna bail out on you. And once you understand that deeply, okay, all of a sudden now, I was able then later on to take my dad to a really nice restaurant and ask his forgiveness for being so angry and I used to hate him. And then I became a Christian and just intensely disliked him, you know. (Laughter)
Jim: It’s a step in the right direction.
John T.: Right, and then I finally realized, if I don’t forgive him, I’m gonna become just like him.
John T.: And so, again, I think what we’re not saying it, well, what’s the blessing? It’s not just the … I think it’s important to realize, did we get it or didn’t we? We gotta be honest with that, because for so many people, you take your average normal child and put him in a home where they don’t get the blessing and they can search all their life to feel acceptable and they’ll never feel that way. So, they need to reverse the curse, but in our relationship with Christ and then with their own kids, man, they can reverse that. They can learn how to give the blessing.
John F.: Well, we’re talking about a hugely important concept, the blessing, on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Dr. John Trent and we’ve got the CD and download and the mobile app, so you can give this another listen later on. You know as a parent it’s vital that we understand and put into practice this concept, from Dr. John Trent. And we’ll encourage you to get a copy of The Blessing DVD-based conversation kit. We’ll send that as our thank you gift when you generously support Focus on the Family with a donation of any amount. Just call for details. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459.
Jim: John, let’s take the remainder of the time, let’s talk through the five components—
John T.: Right.
Jim: –of the blessing just to give people an appreciation for what they can do and hopefully, to even tonight or tomorrow or this coming weekend, they can do this with their own children if it’s appropriate. So, what are those five components and let’s talk about each one.
John T.: Well, here’s a real easy way for people to just get a general idea of what in the world is this blessing. If it’s that important and it really is, I mean, this gift that you either choose to give or withhold can impact a kid for a lifetime, okay.
But okay, I want to bless him, but how do I do it, particularly if like us, we never got it, so we didn’t see it up close and personal. Well, picture B-L-E-S-S, like an acronym or an acrostic poem, and so, here’s the first one, is “Be committed.” It starts off with somebody again, what impacted me with my heavenly Father was, He was gonna be there for me. I thank God for my mom; I remember I was the hellion in our family and I could talk my brother into doin’ stuff occasionally (Laughter). He was way smarter than I am.
But we got picked [up] by the police one time. It’s about 3 in the morning. We had uh … we hadn’t really broken in, ’cause the door was open and the windows were all [open]. But we had gone into a place where we shouldn’t and the cops, you know, picked us up and 3 in the morning, they bang on the door. They didn’t take us to jail; they brought us home.
And I’ll never forget sittin’ at the door, 3 in the morning. They’ve woken up my mom and I’ll never forget sittin’ there and my twin brother, Jeff doesn’t have to talk ever. He’s a scientist. He’s real quiet (Laughing), you know. Well, I couldn’t take it. After about a minute of silence (Laughing), ’cause my mom’s just sittin’ there. This is after the police have left. We’re at the kitchen table.
Jim: She’s giving you that eye.
John T.: Oh, well, you know, I was lookin’ down and I remember just saying, “Well, mom, I guess this means you don’t love us anymore.”
John T.: You know, 3 in the morning, cops bring you home.
Jim: How old are you?
John T.: I’ll never forget. I’m in high school. Well, freshman year in high school and I’ll never forget her head just snapping up and she had these beautiful grey steel blue eyes, very unusual eyes. And she goes, “This has nothing to do with love. I will always love you, but I’m tremendously disappointed in you.”
Well, I knew two things right there. I mean, I could get brought home at 3 in the morning by the cops and my mom wasn’t gonna bail on me. Now I also knew I was in deep trouble and gonna be grounded and—
Jim: You never want to do that again.
John T.: –everything else. Yeah, but that balance of both sides of love. But I am so grateful and so, you want to communicate, hey, I’m committed. That’s the B, okay?
Well, the second thing is loving touch. L is “loving touch.”
Now you think that’s, ah, that’s not a big deal, maybe when they’re little. Hey, I’m tellin’ ya, if you have a girl, the absence of appropriate meaningful touch for a young woman is a great way to drive her in the arms of somebody else later on.
But I didn’t grow up with that. Did you guys grow up with huggy, touchy home kind of a thing?
Jim: It was pretty much my mom, and my dad to a degree, up until 5, he would run his hands through my hair and say, “I love you”–
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –and those kinds of things, so I felt that.
John T.: And isn’t it—
Jim: I did get that.
John T.: –interesting how you can even remember him running—
John T.: –his hands through your hair. Before we ever can learn that we’re, you know, that we’re valuable through words, we learn it through that appropriate touch. And so, again, that’s the second thing is, is that you know, now if they’re a teenager, I know somebody’s listenin’. They’re going, “Oh, right. Jimmy’s bigger than me. Come over here, Jimmy and let me give you a big hug in front of your friends.” You know, (Laughter) watch your body evaporate, you know, kind of a thing.
Well, you know what my mom would do every stinkin’ day of our life? We’d go to school and my mom would drive us to school and we’d get out of the car and we had to hug her before we went into school. Well, every year we made her drop us further and further and further (Laughter). By high school, it’s at the door —
Jim: You’re four blocks away.
John T.: –exactly, yeah, before we left. So, loving tough. That’s the L. Okay, now E is “Express high value.” Who’s somebody in your life when you were growin’ up, Jim, who you know, just said to you, “Man, I see something in your life that God could use” or can you remember somebody in your life that …
Jim: Oh, yeah, my coach, my football coach—
John F.: Uh-hm.
Jim: — my freshman year, Paul Moro.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: And to this day we’re still friends and communicate and Paul is terrific and he does it with hundreds of other kids.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: He is a true—
John T.: Blesser, yeah.
Jim: –blesser and life saver and he knows how to put an arm around you and make you feel like you’re important.
John T.: Yeah, now think about that. With that loving touch, you know, and here’s the stud football coach that’s saying to you, “Hey, you know what?” Again, I’ll just, you know, keep going back to my mom. I know there’s a lot of single parents listening and I just want you to realize how unbelievable important your blessing is.
But I have a really smart twin brother, you know. I’ve mentioned that, you know. He’s a M.D., Ph.D.; he’s a cancer doctor. I called him the other day and I go, “Hey, what are you workin’ on?” He goes, “Ah, you wouldn’t understand.” (Laughter) And it had something to do with cancer. But senior year he gets a what on his big term paper?
Jim: Oh, yeah, an A-plus.
John T.: That’s all he ever gets. (Laughter) Okay, I turn mine in and did you ever see The Christmas Story?
Jim: Oh, yeah.
John T.: It’s got the Red Rider BB gun.
John F.: Uh-hm, uh-hm.
John T.: And remember he writes the theme to the teacher and turned this in and I thought, I’m gonna get an A-plus, plus, plus, just him. Well, she hands me back the paper. There’s all this red. I get to the very last page and I open it up and there’s a D-minus.
D-minus! And she’s written in there, “The only reason I’m passing you is because I don’t want to see you next year.”
John F.: Oh, my goodness.
Jim: Oh, man.
John T.: I still have the paper and look, but in my mind what am I thinkin’? I’m going, well, I don’t want to see you either and I’m you know, showing my paper to my friends like, you know, a badge of honor. You know, “Hey, I passed. You know, I got a D, you know. I passed,” but what am I really thinking?
John T.: I gotta go home. My twin brother’s a straight-A student, that I’d heard all my life, “Why can’t you be like Jeff?” And I remember sittin’ at the table and here’s my mom and she’s a rheumatoid arthritic. Remember their hands get all bent and twisted, you know. And I’ll never forget, you know. She makes me sit down at the table. “Where’s your paper?” “Here’s the paper” and I give it to her. She’s already read Jeff’s.
And I remember her sitting there and she goes, “Hang on a minute” and she reaches out her hand. Remember that loving touch—
John T.: –okay and that commitment that I’m gonna be there no matter what. So, she makes me hold her hand. We hated it. We called it “the death grip,” ’cause if you couldn’t pull away. If you held her hand, you had to …
Jim: She had you.
John T.: Yeah, ’cause if you if you tried to pull away, it would twist her wrist and she’d cry.
John F.: Hm.
John T.: But I remember she reads the whole paper while she’s holding my hand and then she goes, “Look at me,” really good at eye contact. She was really good. “Look at me.” And I had to lift my head up, ’cause I felt so bad and she goes, “I don’t care what that teacher said. You do such a good job of using words when you write, I wouldn’t be surprised if God used you some day to help other people with your words.”
John T.: Now nobody in my life, none of my teachers, I’ll put it that way, were telling me that.
Jim: They didn’t see the potential.
John T.: Right, but E means, man, you’re gonna see something in that kid and you’re gonna tell ’em, which is the next one, which is E is “Express high value, but S is, “You say it verbally.”
John F.: Uh-hm.
John T.: I can’t even tell you, Jim, how many people and John, how many people I’ve counseled with who, they … this is what they say, “Oh, I know I was loved, but I never heard it.”
John F.: Right.
John T.: Well, they may have been loved, but they never got the blessing. The blessing is, you say it. But that’s so hard for some of us to do, right?
John T.: I mean, it just is.
Jim: It is; it really is.
John T.: Not part of our culture.
John F.: It’s awkward; it’s uncomfortable sometimes.
John T.: Yeah.
John F.: It’s just very difficult for some.
John T.: Yeah and that’s why we did at www.theblessing.com, we did this thing called The Blessing Challenge, where with you guys’ helped a ton, where we get people to write a letter of blessing and then read it to ’em, ’cause that makes it a little bit easier. Maybe it was the first step to … to just say it.
And then the last one, so, I’ll go over ’em, is B is be committed” through your loving touch, that’s L, B, L. E is express value. S is say it, by saying it and then the last one is see potential, a special future. And that’s what my mom did for me, wrapped those all together, just sittin’ at a kitchen table. And I’m tellin’ ya, I can remember what she was wearing when she was sitting there and what time of day it was. But again, I think for so many of us, we’re looking for something that says, you know, can God use me?
John T.: Am I really valuable? And what we’re trying to say is, this whole concept of the blessing, this biblical tool, Jesus put these kids in His arms and blessed them. You know, here’s the choice—life or death, the blessing or the curse.
The curse literally means sadly, to dam up the stream, instead of life-giving water going down, to dam up the stream. Well, when we bless somebody, we’re givin’ it to ’em. We’re sayin, “You know what? With my words … ” Now that doesn’t mean you don’t discipline ’em. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t gonna be days where you have to say, “Lord, man, do I need Your life to step towards this kid, ’cause I want to step away to say the least.”
John T.: But it’s when we get filled up with God’s love I think we’re in the best position to then really bless somebody, even if we never got it ourselves.
Jim: John, let me ask you this. You know, so many parents are hearing this and they’re saying, “I’ve blown it. I mean, I haven’t done that.” My child might be 16, 17 or 27 or 30 or 40, who knows. But they feel like at whatever point they’ve heard this program, they’ve missed that opportunity to bless their children, the B-L-E-S-S approach.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: What can they do to—
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: –say okay, tonight I’m gonna call my son or daughter, who’s maybe living in a different town or when that high school student gets home tonight, we’re really gonna sit down and talk about it.
John T.: Yeah.
Jim: What can they do to repair the breach that’s occurred?
John T.: Well, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve sat down with somebody and they may be in their 70s and they would still crawl over broken glass to get that blessing. And we think, well, they quit asking. Absolutely, okay.
Now when they’re younger, they’ll ask, okay. I remember Kari yelling out down the hall, our oldest daughter when she was about 5. We’d put her to bed for the third time. You know what I’m talkin’ about.
Jim: (Laughing) yeah, yeah.
John T.: And this time, “This is it; you can’t get out no matter what.” And I remember her yelling down the hall, Kari, she goes, “Night mom. Night dad and don’t forget to bless me in the morning,” because every morning we’d pray a blessing over her. And they’ll ask when they’re 5 or 4. Guess what? They quit asking when they get older, but they need it just as much.
Jim: Maybe more.
John T.: Exactly. But that takes us sometimes to humble our self [sic]. I’ll never forget, you know, my dad never really turned around and I think so much of it was, he never got the blessing and then in World War II, he was all shot to pieces and never got over the war and was so angry and tried to drink away all the memories and he could never do it.
But I think God, when my precious wife, Cindy, her dad was an old bomber pilot and she grew up wanting his blessing like crazy, but he was like my dad. He was an alcoholic. What a shock the two of us would get together, right?
John T.: So, neither one of us knew really how to bless each other, but when we came to know Christ, both of us tried the best we could to bless our parents. And I’ll never forget, Cindy would start telling her dad after we got married, “Hey, I love you.” Every time he’d go, “Oh, okay,” never say anything back.
And then she started huggin’ him (Chuckling) and he was just like stiff as a board, this old bomber pilot guy. Didn’t like God. I never thought he’d come to know Christ. A year before … about a year and half before he died, he came to know the Lord.
But about five years before that, Cindy had just been blessing him and you know, not overboard, but hey, “Love you, Dad.”
Jim: It softened him up.
John T.: It’s had given and I’ll never forget. We were at a party, a Christmas party and Cindy’s dad, it was like a corridor kitchen. Do you know what I’m talkin’ about, like a long skinny kitchen? And her dad was talking to my older brother, Joe and Cindy comes up behind him, so he can’t see Cindy. He’s facing my older brother.
Cindy comes up behind her dad and here’s her dad saying all these nice things about Cindy that he’s never said to her personally.
John F.: Hm.
Jim: But she could hear it.
John T.: Well, and she could hear it. And my older brother, All of a sudden, her dad realized somethin’s goin’ on and he turns around and there she is and he reaches out and hugs her and it was like a glass wall just broke between ’em. And guess what he started doin’. When she would say, “I love you,” he started sayin’, “I love you” back.
And it was a few years later that he came to know Christ and I guarantee you, it was because all those years before, I mean, Kari was irrepressible, our oldest daughter. She’d share the Four Spiritual Laws with grandpa and say, “Hey, Grandpa, you want to come to know Christ?” And he’d go, “No, absolutely not,” you know. (Laughing)
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
John T.: And then all of a sudden, he began to soften and I think the blessing just wore him down.
John T.: And he came to know Christ and we’re so grateful that he did. Now again, that didn’t happen with my dad, so I’m not saying, you know, you can go back. We’re also not saying you don’t lean into left hooks. Do you know what I mean?
John T.: If somebody was abusive, you don’t drop boundaries. I never let my dad drive. He was an alcoholic. I never let my dad drive our kids in the car, you know, alone. So, you put up appropriate boundaries, but I tell you, you can’t out-hate somebody from your past.
John T.: But you can reverse the curse. In Deuteronomy 23:5, here’s a great verse. It says, “Now the Lord was not willing that the curse rest upon you. But the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.”
Three times it goes, “Hey, I’m here for you.” It is in the love of God that we can get past even some of this hurt and so, that’s why we need to bless our spouse, bless our kids. It’s just so important.
Jim: Well, Dr. John Trent, I mean, you have really brought us so much to think about and what a great place to end the broadcast. And if you have never received that blessing and there’s a hole in your heart because of it and this has connected with you, I hope you’ll call us. We’ve got caring Christian counselors who are here at Focus on the Family, who can talk that through with you and hopefully, just like John’s wife, you can begin to love those around you who have wounded you.
And I’ll tell you, John, one thing that’s so true that I have seen, there’s one tool in God’s arsenal that the enemy of our soul and even our own flesh cannot compete with—