Friday, November 21, 2014

The Power of Hugs

In the center of town there was a gourmet nut shop. One day my husband and I went into the store looking for a gift for my father.  To my discovery the shop keeper’s wife and I immediately bonded as true “jersey” girls.

By the time we left their place of business we invited Honey (that’s her name, but I wouldn’t let my hubby call her that.) and her husband to a Bible study.  We hugged and laughed as if we were old school chums.
The following winter we saw them at a Home Trade Show.  They were with some friends.  Honey and I embraced and her husband spoke with a smile to their companions, “Watch out, she hugs everyone!”
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Hugs Make Friends
I confess … I’m a hugger. For me, hugs come as natural as breathing.  It’s true …I often part company with someone, even a stranger, with a hug and blessing. 
My new hugging friend, artist Ruth
A few weeks ago while I was in the car waiting for my husband as he was getting a pizza,  I noticed there was a woman painting the windows sitting on a stool.  My curiosity took over and I got out of the car and walked over to talk with her. 
Not thinking twice about what I was doing, my spouse simply went to the car and let me have my visit with this stranger.  Within a few minutes I called him over and introduced them to one another.  Our conversation ended with big hugs and laughter on the part of the ladies.
My husband, on the other hand, is more reserved with his outbursts of affection.  I believe hugging has to do with background, environmental and spiritual upbringing.  We may all want a hug, but we don’t always get want we want or need.
Free Hugs
I’d like to briefly share a true story that was brought to my attention several years ago by my friend Josh.  Juan Mann started out on a mission to hug total strangers just to brighten their day.  His reasoning was based on the age of social disconnecting and lack of human contact. 
Juan Mann sharing hugs.
Why was hugging so important to Juan anyway?  Due to some personal events, Juan was forced to leave London and return to his home in Sydney. The sad thing was that there was no one to come home to, and upon his arrival he felt like an outcast in his own town.
There he was standing in the airport watching friends and family greet one another with smiles and hugs.  If only he could have been met with the same sentiment that the people he saw received.
Feeling lost and alone Juan scratched out the words “Free Hugs” on a piece of cardboard with a black marker.  At first his outpouring of affection wasn’t received, but the moment came when that changed. A woman who was experiencing emotional pain reached out to him and shared her grief.  The one thing the woman said she needed the most at that moment was a hug.  Juan put his arms around the stranger and they both walked away smiling.  A need was set, and that need was met.
The FREE Hugs campaign took off like a rocket, so much so that the police banned Juan from doing it any more.  People were enraged about not having the freedom to give someone a hug. They started a petition and acquired 10,000 signatures.  Before long the officers were also giving hugs on the streets with Juan and his followers.
The Free Hugs story has touched millions of lives going viral around the world.  Everyone wanted to get involved just to bless someone who may be in need of emotional encouragement. (Official Video of FREE HUGS)
Why Am I Unhuggable?
There are thousands of people who have never been hugged.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  The amount of people is staggering that said no one has ever hugged them their entire life.
Am I too ugly to be hugged?
What's wrong with me?
Some haven’t hugged out of fear, some because it isn’t part of their culture.  There are statistics of kids saying they’ve never been hugged by their parents or a friend, and in my line of work I know this to be valid.
What happens to a person who has never been hugged?  How do they show emotion or even love?  They often use finances or gifts instead of personal contact.
I recently read an article (won’t give a name) that described that their need to be hugged has been so overwhelming that they squeeze a pillow tightly close to their body just to help them feel better.  They believe they are unlovable because no one has ever reached out and given them a hug.  Even in their sleep they dream of being hugged.
Benefits of Hugs
Hi, I'm Olaf, and I like warm hugs!
Although we may all like the warm squishy feelings of joy (like Olaf) that come when we are hugged, there are other reasons why hugging is actually a God thing we need to enjoy regularly.
There have been numerous studies that found human contact is directly related to our health and emotions. Hugging creates a bond especially for a newborn.  Research verifies that children that are cradled by their mother grow up with a sense of belonging, safety, self-esteem and trust.
I’m witness to this fact based on my own life.  It wasn’t until I was ten days old that my mother held me, because I was in an incubator.  The bond wasn’t established and has affected both of us emotionally and psychologically.
My mother and I had no problem hugging other people.  It was hugging one another that caused us issues. As adults when we first hugged it was uncomfortable, but over the years the embraces became tighter and much longer.  We realized something was missing from our lives, and that was the act of touching through a hug.  It heals.
·       Hugging has been proven to help decrease heart disease, lessen stress, support the immune system and reduce hormonal bonding disorders.

·       People that hug longer than 20 seconds are usually in a good loving relationship of some kind.

·        Adults who have no physical contact as in hugging or hand holding, have higher blood pressure and pulse rates.

·        Hugs subdue feelings of loneliness and anger. They boost serotonin levels creating a sense of happiness, while also relaxing the muscles.
There’s no doubt about it, we need the non-verbal act of hugging and need it often. Our lives depend on it.
The Act of Hugging
Placing our arms around someone in the form of a hug is a deliberate act with intent to show affection, kindness and love.  It’s an expression of favor that we show toward someone and a hug is often the result of how we feel at that given moment.
The Bible talks a lot about hugs or embracing, and gives examples of why people do it.  I’ve found at least a dozen circumstances where people used a hug to express themselves.
There’s someone else who is a hugger.  His name is Jesus.  He wants to bless you with fellowship and wrap His arms around you with love.
Moira Brown, author of “Hugs from Heaven” says,
“Hugs are good for everyone, especially from God when we’re in the hard places.”
A pure hug does change the way we think and feel about others and ourselves.

John the Apostle was one that wasn’t ashamed to hug the Lord, and he did it in front of his friends.  You won’t see that often.
Why did John feel so comfortable with openly showing such a display of affection when others may not have?  John understood his relationship with the Lord and he didn’t want it to end.
Jesus never wanted our fellowship with Him to stop either and He reminded us of that when He said, “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the age?”
Do you want God’s blessing and favor?  If so, fellowship with Him daily.

The Blessing aka the Hug
Did you know that the blessings of the Lord on our lives are spiritual hugs manifested in the natural?  May I go as far as to say that His blessings are like hugs or stamps of approval that show up as favor?  God wants to bless us with His plan for our lives so they will always bear fruit for His glory.
God increases our favor for His Divine purpose,
just like He did in Jesus' life.
Included in His plan is for us to impart love, blessings and even embrace others with the message of the gospel.  What better way is there to show someone you care than to open your arms with a Holy hug?
What happens when God blesses something?  He increases it with His favor so that there is more than enough blessings to go around.  When God wraps His arms around your life, you know it and anyone around you feels and sees it.  It is measurable and visible.
Do you remember when parents brought the children to see Jesus?  The disciples tried to stop them, but Jesus wouldn’t hear of it. He rebuked them and invited the children to come.  Mark’s gospel starting in verse thirteen of  chapter ten, tells us what happened.
“Then they brought the little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of God. 
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16 NKJV)
In the original Greek it actually means that Jesus wrapped His arms around them.  He hugged them to His chest with pure love.  The more we love the Lord the more we’ll love people and their journey to Jesus will become important to us. The blessing came once hands were placed on the children.
Pastor Chip Ingram says it like this, “We express our love for Christ by expressing love for His people.”  They matter to Him.  Sometimes God isn’t looking for us to do the big thing for Him, but the smaller acts like hugging someone who is feeling down.
God doesn’t always lead us to give money, to call someone or write a letter.  He also uses us to be His hands and arms to wrap around an individual who needs to know He is there and cares about them.  He’ll do that through you or me if we are willing to follow His direction along our journey.

“People are looking for love in a loveless world.” Pastor John Hibbert

God not only wants us to know He loves us, but to feel that love in His arms. You have heard the story of the prodigal son who spent his inheritance on the wrong things and ended up begging.  He then realized that even his father’s servants ate better than he did, so a broken man returned home.  What happened to this child who took the wrong path along his journey?
The Bible tells us that the father kept looking for the son every day, waiting to see him return home.  One day the father noticed a figure from the distance.  It was his wayward child.  The grieving parent ran to his beloved heir who had been living among the swine and hugged him!
Scripture says he embraced, hugged the stuffing out of him, not scolded him.  The prodigal's dad didn't say, "Hey, take a shower and change your clothes you stink."  Nor did he say, "You disgraced the family, why have you returned here?" (Luke 15:11-32 NKJV) 
This is how much God loves us.  He receives us in His arms stinky and smelly with sin, broken and lost.  The son had to leave his sin and return to the father. He had to leave his sin behind him, and when he did, he received the blessings and hugs from his father.

A hug is something to be imparted on a person.
It’s a sign of love and caring.

“This is my favorite place to be.” That’s what I tell my husband when I sit on his lap and he hugs me.  When I press my head against his chest with his arms wrapped around me, I can hear his heartbeat. I feel more secure there than any other place on earth. 
When the children run up to me and fling their tiny arms around my waist it means something different.  Their hugs make me feel loved and wanted; like I matter to them.  They run away giggling and smiling as if it was something they just had to do.
If you hug someone closely you can hear their heartbeat.  That’s how close God wants us to be to Him.  So close that we recognize the heartbeat of the Lord and feel His love toward us.

This Week’s Challenge:
 Power of Your Hug
National Hug Day isn’t actually until January 21st, but we’re going to take a new approach (A.N.A.) by getting a head start on helping hearts heal for the holidays.  We want others to see and feel the power of God’s love so He can draw Himself to them through us.
As we are approaching the final weeks of our outward journey it really needs to be open and active for the Lord.  What better way to start the week leading up to Thanksgiving than with a grateful heart by giving something back to the Lord for His goodness, grace and favor.
Every day this week we’re going to reach out to someone with a Heavenly Hug from the Father as an expression of His love for them.  As the Holy Spirit directs, embrace someone and tell them God understands and loves them.  This hug is from Him to let you know He cares for and loves you.

Hold me close Lord, let your love hugs surround me.

Bring me near.  Draw me to Your side.

As I wait, I’ll rise up like the eagle and I will soar with You

Your spirit leads me on in the power of Your love.

Let us show the power of God’s love and not be afraid to minister to others through Holy Hugs. 

If we are the hands and feet of Jesus, aren't we also His arms? 

Hugs are gifts from the heart.
Until next time, there’s favor in a hug.
“I have a blessing waiting just for you.
It’s here in My arms.”
– Jesus Christ
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Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy. A.N.A. logo by J.C.Penney, Inc.
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provide by Bible Gateway.
Image credit: Google Images or Dreamstime Creative Common License if not specified.
Image: Gift Basket  Juan Mann  Pillow Hug  Disney's Frozen Olaf  Jesus Hug  Increased Favor  Prodigal Father  Hands Lyrics by Darlene Zschech.
Disclaimer Notes: Results may vary due to lack of belief. Updated 10/5/18