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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Mom hugging Joey Cullen
I need that hug!
This hug has a story.

"National Hugging Day"

Message summary: Who might you encourage today? Would a hug be an appropriate expression of care?

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Then he (Joseph) threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping" (Genesis 45:14). “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). 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).

Today is National Hugging Day so let us give attention to this common human display of love and affection. This is a blessing that we can all experience both as a recipient and dispenser.

"Humans are social creatures and as a result hugging offers a myriad of mental and physical benefits to people, as now science is beginning to discover. For instance, hugging can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, boost self esteem and improve mental health. Hugging has also been shown to improve cardiac health, lower blood pressure and increase relaxation levels in both participants." (From here)

Freinds bear hugAre you a hugger? The act of hugging varies in families and in various regions of our country and world. In the South hugging is pretty common. Our church in northern Pennsylvania, which we established as a young married couple, became a hugging church, even though hugging in church wasn't common in that region. In New England which has the reputation of being the "frozen chosen" we assumed an older heritage type church and the congregation wasn't all that accustomed to hugging, but that changed while we were there.

Our daily texts are indicative of verses that show us that hugging was practiced all through history.

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 text records the homecoming of the Prodigal son. "Threw his arms around him"
again, sounds like a hug to me!

Our third text 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. 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 care to 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 over 20 years ago.

It 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 complications. It was a very hard time in his life and in mine as well. (He died 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.

David SimpsonIn 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, during a tough time in my life. It helped me to digest the rather soggy airport pizza which we ate in haste. We were mutually encouraged.

Who might you encourage today? Would a hug be an appropriate expression of care?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily 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. Prompt us to be mindful of these good people and to be willing to make the first move. 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.

Joey Cullen with Lorna and Brooksyne 6/5/10
Our lead picture today is a photo of my mom hugging Joey, a teenager from our church who spent several years as a Prodigal. This photo is taken from Joey's wedding about ten years later. Lorna led our youth group during a time in Joey's life when he was rebellious but she was determined to show the love of Christ to this troubled young man. Looks like he's showing his deep appreciation!

Joseph Cullen
Joseph, is now an ordained minister and serves at Philadelphia Christian Center, a large church in Philadelphia. He married Lori, the daughter of Phil and Carol Menditto, who pastor the church and now has two children.

Darrel Martin with Brooksyne
Here's another treasured hug photo. In 2008 Brooksyne had broken her ankle. We attended the wedding of Darrel and Kelly, who both grew up in the church we attended for many years. The bridal couple greeted each attendee and dismissed us from the wedding ceremony row by row.  Brooksyne, unable to leave her chair, expected to just wave at Darrel and Kelly, but he kindly sought her out and extended a warm hug. What a joy that 12 years later Darrel and Kelly are doing well along with two children and a faithful walk with the Lord.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Greek 1723. enagkalizomai: to take into one's arms, to embrace, hug. From en and a derivative of agkale; to take in one's arms.

Here's an early reference to marital hugging that was a PDA: "After Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac hugging and kissing Rebekah" (Genesis 26:8).

"When God Ran"  Video  Phillips, Craig & Dean

What Hugging Can Do

It’s wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue
A hug can say, “I love you so,”
Or, “I hate to see you go.”

A hug is “Welcome back again.”
And “Great to see you! Where ‘er you been'
A hug can soothe a small child’s pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug, there’s just no doubt about it —
We scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms;
It must be why God gave us arms

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers;
And chances are your favorite aunts
love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them, puppies love them,
Heads of states are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
And make your travel so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of ‘em;
The more you give, the more there’s more of ‘em.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!

Dean Walley, The Messenger

Finally today: Yesterday we shared a photo and I was informed by an alert reader that the youth were probably hauling a volleyball net under the wagon. An Amish youth confirmed this. The Amish youth are tremendous volleyball payers.

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

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