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Wednesday, May 2
, 2012

Bear hug between two friends
This photo came to mind as I prepared today's message.  It was taken at a wedding reception in Northern Pennsylvania where Mike and Joe, longtime friends who now live several hundred miles apart, embraced in a "Great to see you again!" type hug.

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"The Blessing Of A Hug"

"Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping" (Genesis 45:14). "They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos" (Acts 20:37-21:1). "The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged" (Acts 28:15).

This week we are considering common blessings that we can all experience, being both recipients and dispensers. The last two days we've considered the blessing of laughter and smiles. Today let's consider a word that is not found in any standard translation of the Bible but I believe nevertheless is strongly suggested, the hug!

Are you a hugger? This varies in families and in various regions of our country and world. In the Midwest hugging is pretty common in churches we attended. Our church in northern Pennsylvania, which we established as a young married couple, was a hugging church, even though it wasn't common in that region. In New England we assumed an older heritage type church and the congregation wasn't as accustomed to hugging, but that increased over time.

Although the word "hug" may not be found in the Scriptures I believe our daily texts are indicative of verses that teach it was the pattern.

Our first daily verse describes the joy-filled reunion of Joseph with his younger brother Benjamin after many years of separation. Notice the physical expression, "he threw his arms around... and embraced him" That sounds like a hug to me! (The weeping component of their reunion merits another study.)

Our second section records Paul's departure from Ephesus. We again see the component of weeping but today let's focus on the physical expression of brotherly love in that moving farewell as the Ephesian elders "embraced him (Paul) and kissed him".

I have visited churches that still practice the "holy kiss", a platonic expression of brotherly affection. In these churches this is an earnest attempt to literally obey a common command found in several of the epistles (for example see Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20). Each time Paul uses this phrase he specifies "holy kiss".

However, for most of us, hugging is as intimate as we get with anyone besides our spouse! Paul's departure must have been a very moving experience. Due to the way the chapter is divided we may miss a gem of truth that's part of this farewell. "
After we had torn ourselves away from them." Now not all versions render the passage this colorfully but I think it captures the sense well. The Greek interlinear NT states "being pulled away from them."

Can you recall such an experience in your own life? Let me share one memorable example from about 15 years ago.

One of those rather remarkable occurrences of providential encouragement happened when I went home to see my Mom and Dad, who lived in the Kansas City area. My dad had recently undergone heart bypass surgery and was now on kidney dialysis and having problems. It was a very hard time in his life and in mine as well. (He passed on the next year.)

We lived in New England at the time and I made a spur of the moment trip out of Boston intending to make a connection in Chicago to Kansas City. The plane was full, so at the last minute I hopped on one to Dallas, knowing I could connect there as well, but with a very short connection.

In Dallas I departed from the plane and hurried to my gate. From behind me I heard a very emphatic "Steve Weber". It was Dave, a friend from first grade, who "just happened" to be traveling from Springfield MO through Dallas, to a business meeting in Florida! At the sight of him I thanked God and was greatly encouraged. Frankly I can't recall but am practically certain we would have hugged each other!

Neither of us had any idea that we would see each other that day nor would we have dreamed of such a surprise visit. All these years later I still treasure those ten or fifteen minutes sharing a moment of fellowship with a childhood friend eating rather soggy airport pizza. We were mutually encouraged. 

What might you do to encourage someone today?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, You created within us a desire for the human touch. We're grateful for hugs of love, affection, and friendship; for those who embraced us following a personal disappointment, a time of loss, a long separation, or a time of celebration and rejoicing. Sometimes words fall short or are inadequate for a situation, so You gave us the ability to show that we really do care by warmly embracing one who is in need of a loving physical touch. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  I clipped this article from a take-home Sunday School paper way back in my college years and have considered its simple message ever since.  Perhaps it will touch your heart as well:

“Without Words” by Enola Chamberlin

One night when I was very young we went camping out on the desert. No earth lights gleamed anywhere. Our lone campfire pushed back the dark a little. The stars – brilliant, beautiful, utterly wonderful possessed me completely.

“Are the stars the lights in the cities of God?” I asked softly.

“What an idea!” my overly practical mother said flatly.

My brother two and a half years older than I and just beginning to learn from books, turned a back somersault in the sand. He giggled; he roared. Then, coming upright, he said, “Are you going to be a nitwit all your life?

By this time my eyes were so full of tears I couldn’t see the stars. My heart was so broken I’d lost the lovely feeling I’d had a minute before.

And then out of the dark came my father’s precious, long-fingered hand and found mine. Tenderly, reassuringly, his clasp tightened.  It let up a bit, tightened again, this time hard. He didn’t say a word, didn’t even look at me. But comfort, understanding, and reassurance flowed from his hand to my heart, and I was healed. 

This incident has stayed with me all my life. It has grown in importance as I have grown in understanding. It is a wonderful example of how much one person can get over to another without a word being said. He sympathized with me, and did it perfectly by the simple clasping of my hand.

Every so often, it seems we find ourselves in the position my father was in that night. Disappointments and heartaches come to our friends and loved ones. We must let them know we understand, but far too many of us try to do this with words.  We fumble around, vainly hunting for the right thing to say. Then we find ourselves talking to cover our embarrassment. Finally the one we have tried to cheer is feeling sorry for us.

How much better had we simply clasped a hand, laid an arm across a shoulder, and given a comforting pressure.  The grieving one would have known how we felt and would not have had to listen to our rush of inadequate words - would not have had to try to answer when there was no answer.

A little girl went to call on a neighbor whose little boy had gone away to boarding school. When she came home, she told her mother she had done an awful job of comforting Johnny’s mother.

“What did you say” her mother asked.

“I didn’t say anything,” the little girl answered. “She was sitting in a chair crying, so I just crawled up in her lap and cried with her.

Maybe that will make you smile. But the next time you have to comfort someone, consider carefully whether words are needed or a sympathizing touch that might speak even more effectively than words.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Why Me Lord?"  Video  David Crowder Band This song really doesn't have anything to do with today's topic but for some reason came to mind the last several days.

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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