Human Touch

people hugging

2 Corinthians 13:12, “Greet each other with a holy kiss.

People Need Human Contact

There are five references to a “holy kiss” in the New Testament. I know the idea of a “holy kiss” freaks out Americans, myself included, yet most Americans are comfortable with a hug as part of a greeting or farewell. And the European tradition of air-kissing each cheek when formally greeting someone has long been practiced. 

Every culture has its own approach to personal contact during a greeting or farewell. “The traditional Māori greeting, the hongi (pronounced hɒŋi) is performed by two people pressing their noses together; some include, at the same time, the touching of foreheads.” –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongi

By nature I’m not a hugger. Over the years I’ve learned from my wife and her family how to hug but I’m still a bit clumsy. This seemly insignificant deficiency of mine proved to be a problem during my ministry in Romania. 

I Kiss Your Hand

I was in Romania shortly after that country’s independence from the Soviet Union and the “old ways” were in full force. When formally introduced to a woman I was expected to air-kiss both cheeks. That was too much. Thankfully, a friend taught me to say “Îți sărut mâna”, meaning, “I kiss your hand.” This statement was an acceptable formal greeting. Yeah!

The Power of Touch

There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic, titled, “Can We Touch,” which highlights the medical and psychological benefits from platonic, human touch. For example:

From a small initial study the psychologist Tiffany Field published an article in the journal Pediatrics in 1986, which showed that just ten days of “body stroking and passive movements of the limbs” for less than an hour led babies to grow 47 percent faster. They averaged fewer days in the hospital and accrued $3,000 less in medical bills. The effect has been replicated multiple times.

Tiffany Field has published similar findings about the benefits of touch in full-term infants, and then children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes. Studies that involved as little as 15 daily minutes found that touch alone, even devoid of the other supportive qualities it usually signifies, seems to have myriad benefits.    

Be a Hugger

So, what’s my point? With Thanksgiving and Christian nearly here, we’re entering a time when we will be meeting, greeting, and farewelling (?) lots of people. As Christians, we should always offer to hug anyone. People will let you know if they don’t want a hug. However, it seems that many people are desperate for human touch, and hugging someone might make their day and cure their cold!
( read the article 😉 )

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Soul Insulation

people walking in downtown as it snows

As I recently mentioned, we bought a shed for my office. Getting the electrical installed was easy-peasy because we “have” an electrician that is reliable and affordable. However, we have struggled to get my office insulated and drywalled. It seems that my project is too small for anyone to bother with.

My wife and I are about ready to do this work ourselves. When we were younger, we’d already had the job finished. However, time is catching up with us, and our strength is waning. Still, I’m confident that God will make a way for this work to be accomplished.

Just as a house or office needs insulation to keep out the extremes of weather, so we as Christians need insulation to maintain a barrier between what the Holy Spirit is working within us and what our society is attempting to stifle within us.

Soul Insulation

One of the best spiritual insulators for our minds and souls can be purchased for free. It is be found in 

Philippians 4:8-9, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

This passage of scripture gives us the insulation that we need to keep the world from chilling the Holy Spirit’s fire within us or overheating our passion for the work God has given us, which can lead to frustration and anger. 

Keep the Precepts of Philippians

Daily we need to keep the precepts of Philippians 4:8-9 at the forefront of our thoughts. If we do this, then the storms of life may buffet us, but we will remain warm and snuggly with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Photo by Matthias Kinsella on Unsplash

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My Stress

two white haired old men playing chess

There is good and bad stress. Today I’m writing about bad stress.

“Stress alters your body. 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (WebMD) “Stress has both physical and emotional effects on our bodies. It can raise our blood pressure, increase our breathing rate and heart rate, and cause muscle tension. These things are hard on the body.” (MedLine Plus)

Nerve cells and dendrites. Source: Pixabay free

Dr. Cheryl Conrad, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, believes that chronic stress can have significant negative consequences on brain plasticity and resilience and may be a factor in depression, anxiety, PTSD and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Jesus Speaks Peace

I believe the reason Jesus’ first response to people often was “peace” because lack of peace alters the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. (This is your brain on stress)

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with stress. The “why” is not germane but I will say it is perhaps the most difficult issue I’ve faced. Through this time I can testify that Jesus has given me peace in my spirit.

An interesting side-effect of this spiritual battle I find myself in – yes, the root of bad stress is often spiritual – is that my hair has turned white almost overnight; not all of it, but nearly so. That’s fine. As an adopted child, grafted into the lineage of Jacob, I am resting on Isaiah 46:3-4 (ESV)

Isaiah 46:3-4

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;

even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

I assume white hair qualifies for “gray” :).  This passage is for everyone that has received Jesus, even if you don’t have grey hair! Receive the peace that God speaks to us through this passage in Isaiah. Be at peace.

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Cookies

When I was in first grade at school, I came home one day and told my mother that I was supposed to bring cookies to school the next day for the whole class. Now, I don’t remember any of this, but I’m confident that I believed this burden was placed on my tiny shoulders; well, my mother’s.

At that time, we lived in the country, and my mother had neither a car nor a license to drive. She went into panic mode – rummaged through our pantry she came up with an impromptu receipt and proceeded to make fifty cookies – her math was that each child would want two cookies, and the teacher would want one or two, and there would be leftovers in case visitors were there. We didn’t see Mom that evening as she turned our kitchen into a bakery factory.

The Next Day

The next day she made it a point to come to school with me – I don’t know how – to make sure I didn’t eat, lose, or destroy the cookies for which my whole class was anticipating. I don’t remember this. However, I do remember this next part. Upon arriving, Mom handed the cookies to my teacher with a perfunctory apology about hoping she’d made enough and that they tasted okay. My teacher was speechless, which was quite unusual for her. She calmly explained to my mother that there wasn’t a special occasion, and she had not requested cookies from any parent. My teacher laughed; my mom rather stiffly responded in kind. Mom left, leaving the cookies for the class. I thought it was a great treat, not knowing that for the rest of her life, my mother never let me forget that incident.

Cookie Fiasco

Admittedly, the cookie fiasco, as it’s come to be known, is a trivial event. Still, this event demonstrates the lengths to which a parent will go do for their kids. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) Now that’s good news!

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Trying Sea Eel Soup

I couldn’t sleep tonight, so I decided to finish watching “Street Foods” on Netflix. It’s a documentary series that is about success stories of Asian people whose lives have been changed by selling traditional foods from small stalls or even just on sidewalks and streets. Each episode features a different Asian country and, just now, I watched an episode that featured Cebu, Philippines. I’ve been there, so it got my attention.

What intrigued me was the story of this elderly fisherman that wanted to help his small fishing community. They were all extremely poor because the kinds of fish that sold well were too few for the number of people fishing. So, this man looked for what was plentiful; it was sea eels. (Now stay with me.) So, he started experimenting to create a recipe for eel soup that people would like. He found it!

Now, I have to admit that, to me, seeing eel soup and watching people eat it was sickening. Nevertheless, he shared it with locals in his community, and they loved it so much they talked him into opening a small restaurant, which he built himself. As word spread about his eel soup, his little restaurant shack on the beach became so popular that the government poured a concrete road through the town, ending it at his shack.

As more people came to town more shops opened, more people bought fresh seafood, the fishermen began to prosper, and the quality of life improved for the whole community. His kids now run the business while he enjoys his twenty-three grandkids.

This Filipino fisherman is an excellent example for Christians. Just look at Psalms 34:8: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Many people today are disgusted when they look at Christianity. TV preachers, mega-churches, promises of wealth, preachers dressing in three-piece suits, looking like bankers and running their local churches like businesses.

All of these issues and more have made Christianity repugnant to irreligious people and people from other religions. For them, Christianity is distasteful because of what they’ve seen; they have never tasted God.

Having never been in contact with a Christian that has living water pouring out of them (John 7:38), people that have rejected the Church without ever having connected with God. However, when people get a “taste” of God, not only will many come back for more, but they will bring others with them.

It is us, God’s children, that He uses to provide that taste of Him to others. Life begets life. If we have the life of Jesus within us, people will see a difference, they will feel God’s power, and they will want God in them. We already are commissioned for this work (Mark 16:15), so there’s no need to ask God about it, just go; take the living water of God to the world.

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Insecurity

Are you insecure? If so, the following devotional can fix you in just three minutes.

When I was in middle school – it was called junior high back then – I began to notice and be attracted to girls. My first girlfriend was Leslie. I had no courage around girls, so she chased me until she became my girlfriend for about two weeks.

We’d been friends for much longer. My best friend and I would play tetherball with her in her backyard and, sometimes, she’d watch my wrestling matches at school. But, after I became her boyfriend, she quickly dumped me and moved on. I don’t fault her for that.

Before this first brush with courting, I was backward and clumsy; afterward, I was backward, clumsy, and completely insecure. Attraction, attention, affection, and abandonment is the process of how kids begin to learn the social skills they will need once they mature and are ready to start courtship.

If nothing else, I’m consistently a slow learner, so when I entered high school, I had to take a speech class. When it came to my turn to stand up and give a speech, I took an “F” because I was too insecure to give the speech I had prepared and held in my hand.

As a novice student of history, I am astonished by the number of kingdoms destroyed by the actions of insecure leaders. Pride, combined with fear, produces an insidious foundation for insecurity. You can be sure that this toxic abscess within one’s self will manifest itself.

Hold on, you might say. If insecurity is a person’s nature, why am I picking on them? For twenty years, I was the poster child for insecurity. Then, God showed me that just as worry is a sin, so is insecurity.

Now, here comes the cure.

Just as worry is an expression of a person’s lack of trust in God, so insecurity is pride with doubt. Both pride and doubt are not God’s will for His children. God loves us and has told us, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1 KJV) If we are called on to give a testimony or to take a leadership role, we need to pray. If God tells us “yes” then any action on our part to undermine God’s call is a sin. None of us want that.

Left unchecked, when insecurity has run its full course, an implosion takes place leaving that person an empty shell, exposed to all as someone who’s God-given strength was drained by insecurities abrogating God’s joy, peace, contentment and love which are available to each of us through Christ Jesus.

You can read a brief example of the impact of insecurity in Mark 6:21-28, I’ll give you the “clincher” here: “And he [King Herod] promised her with an oath...” He was a king. He did not need to write her a blank check, but his insecurity in front of his guests manifested itself much to his remorse and eventual destruction.

‘Insecurity’s fruit is loss, destruction, and embarrassment. God wants better for you.

Insecurity will lose its hold on us if we do what Jesus said in Mark 12:29-30, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” If we do this, then there’s no place in our lives for insecurity.

Prayer: Father God, we know your bountiful promises in your Word that calls us to peace and rest in You. Therefore, right now, we ask that you would give us the boldness to deal with the root causes of our insecurities. Set us free and teach us to cast all of our care upon you. Thank you for this new freedom you have imparted to us. In the Name of Jesus we pray. Amen!

There you go. If you take to heart these passages of Scripture and pray a prayer similar to the one, above, you are free of insecurity. Walk in faith and that’s good news.

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Why did I not perish at birth?

I wrote this for my kids back in 2016.

Dear Children,

Not everyone can relate to Job’s severe condition, one that compelled him to exclaim, “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:10) But, I can relate. Three times in my life, I’ve reached the emotional and spiritual state where I, too, cried out to God, “Why was I ever born! Why did I survive my birth, or why was I ever conceived?” I said as Job did, “What I feared has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25)

Perhaps you cannot relate to these emotions, these innermost thoughts. However, I write this for I am sure there are some, maybe even within my family, that have fought this battle, wrested with this enemy and cried our “What I feared has come up me!

Don’t hide or bury this battle for you will steal away hope for others amid a similar war upon their soul. I am not promoting a constant retelling of your struggle. But, as God places this in your conversation, and your spirit confirms God’s prompting, don’t hide, don’t withhold, don’t steal their hope that Christ put in you for such a time as this.

Whether that person is a friend, family, or stranger, God’s timing is perfect; don’t let it pass you by. Ask and let them pour out their hearts, that disease that is within them. Listen and do not interrupt though you have wisdom, make room for the light of the Holy Spirit to shine within their souls to begin a complete healing. Healing that our words, though thought as valuable to us, may not bring healing to them.

As healing takes place, and it rarely is spontaneous, a person you hardly recognize will emerge. Fear is a cancer of the soul. Loss of trust in Christ is a surrender to God’s enemy. Job said, “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:26) That is how this condition usurps the place of peace, hope, and faith. It carries with it the temptation to abandon God and bow to the enemy.

Curse God and die” (Job 2;9) is the voice of Satan that came from Job’s wife, and those words will come to you from many that council you who are not strong in the Lord. But in God, there is always hope, and He gives liberally to His saints. Relief, renewal, and reward await those who stand the test. That yield not nor bow their knee to our enemy, but stand firm though, in our natural sight, all seems lost, and even God’s people ridicule you, abandon you, or worse.

There is good news, for Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and written by Paul, said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Through Jesus, we are set free. And, by our Lord and Savior, we have hope, help and holy renewal. Perhaps, we may physically die, but more likely, as did Job, we will be shown the root of our condition and be delivered back to life.

May God bless and keep you all.
Dad

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Always

My dad, having been an educator, taught me the value and subtleties of words. He would quote that old saw, “Don’t use a 50 cent word if a 10 cent word is better.” But, he liked 50 cent words. Of course, when he told me that saying, 50 cents would buy a meal at the local diner.

In logic, a tautology is a formula or assertion that is true in every possible interpretation. My dad loved tautological words; I inherited that love.  In today’s passage of Scripture, God has given us several tautological words but I would like us to consider the word “always”. Here’s the passage:

Hebrews 7:
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Verse twenty-two defines the context: a better covenant. Within this context, now let us consider verse twenty-five: Jesus always lives to intercede for them. That statement is tautological; it remains true in every possible interpretation. There are no logical contradictions or contingencies.

Having entered the “better covenant”, we know that no matter what circumstances, what trials, what spiritual attacks we find ourselves, we have Jesus as our intercessor, always, That’s good news!

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Zoom It, Henry!

The dream of almost every child in America is to have a chance to play in baseball’s World Series. In the 1993 movie, “Rookie of the Year,” the lead character, a young boy named Henry Rowengartner, gets that chance. It’s a favorite family movie of ours.

Throughout the movie, Henry’s coach called him every name in the book except Henry until the very end. Nevertheless, Coach always kept his eye on Henry and made sure he was cared for.

Likewise, we can rest in our walk with Christ. We read in Isaiah 41:13 (NIV), “ For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” and in Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

All the politics and opposing team’s tricks can’t thwart the will of God, and faith in God’s Son puts you right in the middle of where the action is! That’s the place to be and the place where you are the most protected. Remember, you’re in the big leagues! And, that’s good news.

On Doubt

This world has paths that Jesus calls us to walk that are tough. Just a few days ago, yet another baby passed from this world to heaven. The child is a relative of my wife. Life rarely gets much more difficult than the death of a child.

Questions are asked with answers which can never remove the pain. Whenever we suffer a loss, we immediately are assaulted by so many questions, regrets, confusion in our soul that may drive us to become angry at God. We can say that would never be us, but we don’t know until it happens.

God is big enough to take it. You can be angry at God. You can ask why. You can hurt. It’s okay. Remember, Habakkuk cried out in Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”

Some of life’s pains can be seen, off in the distance, like an aging parent or loved one. Other pains t-bone us like someone running a red light and crashing into us. We are shaken down to our core. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility, no matter how severe our crisis or loss; we can’t give doubt even an angstrom of footing.

Even in the worst of our times, we will still have reassurance and peace available to us, if we’re willing to receive them from Jesus. Jesus knows something about pain, about rejections, about life’s intent to shame. He knows, and He will hold us when we can’t stand.

When life seems to have you on the ropes, read John, chapter 14. In my opinion, there is no greater encouragement in God’s Word than what Jesus says in this chapter. John 14:1, reads, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” It just gets more encouraging from there.

Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

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