Ponderings with Doug – June 24, 2016



Doug De Graffenried – First United Methodist Church, Natchitoches, Louisiana

I had a seminary professor who ruined me.

He was lecturing on ministerial ethics and being a proper pastor. I know I fell asleep when he talked about wearing a suit and tie when you mow the lawn. Somehow he chased a lecture rabbit down the “hugging women” hole. He told us, “I do not hug my female church members and I have a theological reason for not hugging them.” We all leaned forward with our notebooks ready to take down this theological tidbit.

He said, “I don’t hug women, because….”

“If you hug the cute ones you have to hug the ugly ones too.”

He actually demonstrated how to hug if you got trapped into a hug. A proper minister hugs from the side with one arm over the shoulder. This is the only acceptable method of ministerial hugging according to my former seminary professor.

I’m not much of a hugger. It has nothing to do with cute or ugly. I’m just not a hugging kinda guy, but I’m learning. I had a church member once who said she needed at least seven hugs a day. For some reason I got on her daily hug list and she taught me to loosen up, a little bit.

This week, Donald Avery was in town to do the funeral for Mary Lee Posey. Donald was the pastor at the Methodist Church before me. He led the church as we built the contemporary worship space. He was much loved by the church and the community. Donald is a minister, who also practiced law. He is a great cook and can grow anything. He is an authentic person in every arena of life. I have served with Donald in Louisiana Methodism for over thirty years. He is one of the ministers I admire. He has retired and moved to Slidell. The only flaw I found with Donald was his gloating about the joys of retirement.

Donald is most famous at First Methodist for one thing.

Donald is a hugger. People were lined up outside the office on Monday to get a hug from Donald. They would actually ask him for a hug!

It doesn’t matter if you are cute or ugly, young or old, black or white, male or female; Donald Avery is going to hug you. I have first-hand knowledge, Donald Avery can hug! He is a non-discriminating wrap both arms around you in the name of Jesus hugger.

I know that when I see Donald the handshake is going to become a hug.

I have grown in my hugging since that seminary class.

“A man had two sons,”St. Luke writes. The young boy took dad’s inheritance and went off into a far country, probably the French Quarter in New Orleans and wasted dad’s inheritance on riotous living. A famine arose in the land. The boy had no friends, no money and no food. He got a job tending pigs, which a good Jewish boy should never do. He was so hungry he was about to eat the pig slop. The boy hatched an idea. He would go home to his father and confess all, and maybe his dad would take care of him.

The father was waiting and watching for this profligate son to return. Dad saw the boy coming from a distance. Dad ran to the son and welcomed the wayward son back with a big hug! Exegetically speaking the hug was both redemptive and protective.

One of the ways I think about heaven is that Jesus is there to greet us when we arrive. I believe that the Lord of heaven will wrap his arms around us and say, “Welcome home child.”

I think heaven will be a happy hugging place.

I’m practicing my hugging. What about you?