I happened to overhear a bit of a conversation while sitting in the dentist's office this morning. "Ides of March? Well, that's when Caesar was betrayed by a bunch of his friends." I knew about the Ides of March (in high school, our English class, having just completed Julius Caesar commemorated it by wearing black armbands) but I'd forgotten to put it together with today. The reminder made me ponder again the power of words, especially those spoken by trusted friends. It was the eloquence of Brutus, whom Caesar counted on the most, which led to Caesar's death on the Senate floor.
 
Like Brutus, we can betray our friends with our words. They can be deft weapons used to wound, cause anxiety, debilitate and mis(in)form. On the other hand, we can use our words to bless those around us. Used in this way, what we say can bring healing, relaxation, laughter and inspiration to rise to new levels of competence.
 
Blessing is not a very common phrase these days, at least not outside the religious sphere. If we attend a worship service, we may be accustomed to the priest or officiant ending with a formal blessing as the congregation departs the sanctuary and heads into the work week. But in our normal, everday lives, I wonder how much the concept of blessing is integrated into our lives.

Until we come to St Patricks Day. Like corned beef and leprachauns, Irish blessings spring up as regular as the daffodils each spring. They proliferate on cards and cakes, songs and poetry. A well-known blessing, which is featured on the youtube above, begins wtih these familiar words:

May the road rise to meet  you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand
.

Leaving those we care about with a blessing until "we meet again," is a part of the Irish culture which I have always appreciated. For years I would ask to speak a blessing over friends as we parted ways. I had a sense that a blessing was a true gift, one with power that spoke into a future as of yet only imagined.

I wonder what it would take for us to re-incorporate blessings into our daily lives,  to imagine that our words are formative, that they not only encourage others around us, but may even call forth something new into their lives. To offer a true blessing, I need to move beyond merely wishing for someone's health and happiness. Instead, I slow down to look at what is, and what could be. I must start with a strong desire for that person's best, for their goodness to increase, their calling to be fulfilled.

The teacher who looks at a student and sees her potential, offers a blessing when he says, "You have an amazing gift with words. May your poetic talents flourish." A blessing comes to rest upon a struggling friend when he receives a call saying, "You have what it takes to make it through this difficulty. May you draw on resources that are deep inside of you."

These are examples of what blessing looks like in our lives, words that propel us powerfully toward the future that awaits, that focus us on what is and what is to come.  With that in mind, I offer this blessing:
  
May you live well each day in the warming power of God's love. 
May you be constantly refreshed by grace, sparkling like morning dew.
May you discover your true name, and embrace your calling with confidence. 
May the joyful wind of Spirit fill your sails as you embark
And may your eyes be newly opened to the power of your words
to strengthen, encourage and call life into being for those around you.
 
Disclaimor: This recipe is NOT gluten free, NOT low in sugar, NOT low in fat. However, there is some possibility that pistachios are good for you...and all things in moderation, right?

For several years I worked in the registrar's office at a nearby college. Every year, on or about St Patrick's Day, we would throw an open house for the rest of the college faculty and staff. One year, I discovered this recipe and whipped up a batch for my contribution. Although I no longer work at the college, this Saturday I am going to a friend's birthday party which, as it coincides with St Patrick's Day, gives me a chance to dust off my shamrock cookie cutters. I'm posting the recipe below, which I originally got from the California Pistachio Commission. Also, for those of you who enjoy themed baking and/or have kids that do, check out the Best Bites website, which is always full of clever and yummy ideas.

Pistachio Shamrock Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
1 cup finely chopped pistachios

Lime Icing, (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon  milk
1/4 teaspoon grated lime peel 

Preheat oven to 357. Cream butter and sugar; beat in egg. Stir in flour and lime peel; mix in pistachios. Refrigerate dough 1 hour. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick; cut shapes with shamrock-shaped cookie cutter. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Pipe lime icing to outline cookies. Makes 5 - 6 dozen.

For Lime Icing: Combine butter, powdered sugar, milk and lime peel in  a medium
bowl. Mix until smooth. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Photo Credit: California Pistachio Commission