Thursday, August 29, 2019


An Arkie's Faith column from the August 29, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The white envelope stared up at me from my desk. It seemed to be mocking me. The envelope had been lying there on my desk for three weeks. Every time I sat down at my desk, the first thing I noticed was that annoying envelope. I knew that I had to do something about that envelope.

On my birthday my wife had handed me the envelope. When I opened it, I found a gift certificate for a massage at Meraki Massage and Bodyworks. I tried to be gracious, but I am quite sure that I didn’t accomplish it. I had never had a massage, and I felt that I would not like it. I have never liked to have someone rub my back, and the idea of a stranger massaging me was intimidating. I have a fear of the unknown, and this was definitely an unknown.

I told my wife that I didn’t think that I would like to get a massage and that she could use the gift certificate herself. For over a year, my wife had been regularly getting massages at Meraki Massage and Bodyworks. She told me how wonderful Jackie was as a masseuse. She encouraged me to get a massage and see if it would help with the problems I had been having with my neck. I told her that I would think about it and placed the envelope on my desk.

Every time I looked at that envelope, I felt bad. My wife had given me a gift, and I hadn’t appreciated it. Finally, I told my wife, “call and make me an appointment for a massage.” When I showed up for my massage, I was apprehensive, but Jackie did everything she could to put me at ease. She told me numerous times to relax, as I would tense up. She spent extra time working on my neck because I was having neck pain and problems with range of motion. At the end of the massage, I made an appointment for another massage. I was no longer apprehensive.

For the past six months, Jackie has worked on improving the range of motion in my neck. She has tried different techniques and has researched how to deal with my condition. I have been impressed with her personalized attention to my issues. Whenever I walk into her massage room, I see her motto painted in large letters across one wall. Meraki: To do something with soul, creativity, or love, leaving a piece of yourself in what you are doing.

As I have gotten to know Jackie and been a regular client of hers, I realize that this word, Meraki, describes her approach to what she does. When I investigated the origin of the word Meraki, I found that it is of Greek origin, and it is one of those words that has no direct translation in English. As I thought about this word that needs a whole sentence when translated into English, I thought about people I know who are passionate about their jobs, their hobbies, and their life, people who do something with soul, creativity or love, and leave a piece of themselves in what they are doing. What an amazing way that is to live life!

As Christians, we need to embrace Meraki as a way of life. I think that the concept is a Biblical one. One day while Jesus was teaching at the temple, the Jewish leaders attempted to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against him. They had determined that the Law consisted of 613 commandments, and they categorized them into greater and lesser laws. “One of the legal experts came up, and overheard the discussion. Realizing that Jesus had given a splendid answer, he put a question of his own. ‘Which commandment,’ he asked, ‘is the first one of all?’ ‘The first one,’ replied Jesus, ‘is this: “Listen, Israel: the Lord your God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength.” And this is the second one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these ones.’” Mark 12:28-31 (NTE)

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, and understanding and strength. This response would likely have gone over well with the Jewish leaders since it came directly from Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” No one could argue with that. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He added, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

One of the authors that I enjoy reading is Eugene Peterson. He was an American Presbyterian minister, scholar, theologian, author, and poet. He wrote over 30 books, including the Bible paraphrase, The Message. I recently read the following line that made an impact on me. He wrote, "there is far more to this Christian life than getting it right. There is LIVING it right." We, as Christians, are to love God with our passions, desires, perceptions, and thoughts. We are also to love him with how we talk, and what we do with our hands, and how we utilize our talents; our entire being is to display that we love God. But that isn’t all. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When I was in high school, the chorus to a popular worship song was, “they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yeah, they'll know we are Christians by our love.” I wonder what happened to that Christian idealism that I felt back then. When I see the issues that Christians seem to focus on today, I don’t see love. We seem to have forgotten that Jesus taught that the most important thing after loving God is loving your neighbor. He taught that we are always to love others. He even said to love your enemies as well as those that persecute you.

Gentle Reader, we as Christians need to live our lives with Meraki. We need to live our lives with soul, creativity, and love, leaving a piece of ourselves in what we are doing. When others see your life, do they see someone who is loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength; And loving your neighbor as yourself?

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