Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Greet one another with a holy ??????

We’re coming back Sunday and, while I’m excited, I must admit I’m a little apprehensive as well. How many people will show up? Have we done all we can reasonably do to keep people safe? Will we be somewhat disappointed with a smaller crowd? Will the live stream be effective? Will those who stay home feel left out? If you haven’t guessed it, I’m a bit of a worrier. Please forgive.

But while I’m at it, another concern I have about Sunday is how will we greet each other? We instinctively hold out our hand for a handshake. Others go right in for the hug. It’s part of who we are, but for now we will have to abstain from both handshakes and hugs. It almost sounds cold and even unbiblical but, if it is, it won’t be the first time we’ve deviated from a biblical greeting mandate.

Four times in the New Testament we are commanded to greet one another with a holy kiss. All growing up I was told that we were exempt from that command, at least exempt from the “kiss” part of it. (And I must admit I was relieved to know that. Outside of my immediate family I’m not much of a physically affectionate person.) I was told that it’s not so much the specific manner of greeting that was important. What mattered was that we all gratefully acknowledge other people and in our culture the kiss could be replaced by a handshake or a hug.

And I agree with that interpretation. Never once have I felt in violation of scripture because I didn’t kiss someone when I saw them at church. One of the difficulties of interpreting a document written millennia ago is how to factor in cultural conventions. The kiss was the appropriate cultural greeting then (and even now in some places), but not so much in 21st century America.

As culture changes, so do greetings. Culture is changing again and so should our greetings.

Come Sunday there will be fewer if any handshakes and hugs. I will not be extending my hand or offering an embrace. But please don’t take it the wrong way – no more than you would that I haven’t been kissing you all these years.  You may not get a handshake or hug from me, but you will be greeted.  With an eye-to-eye glance. With a salute or a wave. Maybe with a hand over my heart. Maybe with a thumbs up. Maybe with a smile. We’ve had to be adaptive these last few months and I’m confident we can creatively greet one another.

I know there’s power in physical touch and I really hope we can get back to those handshakes and hugs (I can live without the kisses) but for now it’s not the kiss or the handshake or the hug that really matters. It’s acknowledging each other. It’s valuing each other’s presence in our lives. It’s greeting one another with a holy expression of the sacred love we have for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

For All Women on Mother’s Day

“To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.
To those who have disappointment, heartache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day.
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren - yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you.
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.”

Amy Young
@TheMessyMiddle /

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Confessions of a dog owner

Years ago we had a dog, a Welsh corgi named Callie.  I don't dislike dogs, but I've never really been a "dog person."  My wife is much more the animal lover.  She was the one to care for her, walk her, and be the kind master every dog deserves.  I must confess, Callie never did get too much attention from me.  In fact, I often considered her a nuisance more than anything else.

We got Callie as a puppy, and she was all puppy.  She raced around the back-yard moving those little legs faster than you thought was possible.  When anyone would go outside Callie would race to their side.  We would later get her a companion, Jem, and they would frolic in the yard together chasing each other and doing that dog wrestling thing that dogs do.  But then one day, we noticed Callie was slowing down a bit.  She had even developed a slight limp.

So, we brought her to the veterinarian to see what the problem might be.  After examinations and tests the doctor told us that Callie had a condition called hip dysplasia.  We were given the medical explanation of the disease, but the bottom line was that Callie was in pain and, although that pain could be treated with medicine, she would always suffer to some degree.

From that day on I became more of a dog person.  I found myself a little more tolerant of her annoying behavior and even found myself petting her more often. Knowing that she was in pain I treated her with more compassion and kindness.  Perhaps a little rub on the belly would help her forget about that pain, even if just for a moment. Isn't that what a person should do?  Be kind to others who are in pain.  That whole experience caused me to reexamine how I treated my dog, but it also caused me to rethink how I treat people. 

Back in 2004 I had to wear a cast on my leg and use crutches for six weeks. During that time people offered to hold doors, they yielded to me, they asked if they could do anything for me.  People treated me with an extra measure of kindness. People treat others better when they know they are in pain. My bright orange cast was an obvious sign of my pain. My hurt was apparent - most people hide their hurts so that no one else knows the pain they are in. 
I'm guilty of ignoring people at times and, I must admit, sometimes I look at people as a nuisance more than anything else.  Then, when I realize that most people are bearing some sort of pain, my response changes.  And even if they show no signs of pain, I just assume it, and, truth be told, most people are in pain to some degree - they just are very good about concealing it! Everyone needs to be treated with compassion and tenderness.

Perhaps we should find ourselves a little more tolerant of others. Perhaps we should take the time to be more gentle and considerate to those around us. Maybe a kind word or a friendly gesture is just what people need. After all, shouldn’t people be kind to others, especially when they are in pain? 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.