When Fresh Breath Matters and When It Doesn’t

When fresh breath matters and when it doesn’t

I saw a big, three paneled ad on a wall at the airport at Philadelphia last week. It was like a secular triptych.

The first panel showed two people embracing with the caption “Friend request accepted.”

The second panel showed two people hugging and laughing, and the caption read “The original voice mail.”

The third panel showed a man leaning into a tax and kissing a woman, with the caption“The original instant message.”

I wondered what the ad was for and looked more closely: Dentyne gum

So Dentyne makes our breath fresh for interpersonal interactions.

What other skills or qualities are necessary  for face to face interactions that are not so important when we’re alone at our computer or with our iPhone instant messaging or tweeting or leaving a text or voicemail?

Getting dressed. Leaving our house. Eye contact.  Listening.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, I’m just saying….

She loves me, she loves me not.

A colleague told me of an experience he had during a preacher seminar years ago. The professor leading the seminar sent the 10 students out to various places in the community: grocery store, bookstore, farmer’s market, pool hall, pawn shop, fast food restaurant, etc. He told them to listen to people’s conversations. My friend heard a mother and child playing a game in the grocery store. The child would reach for something to put in the cart; the mom would say “Mommy doesn’t love you.” The child would put it back and the mom would say “Mommy loves you.” What an awful way to teach frugality!

Getting caught red handed

I was watching John Stewart the other day and he had a list of ways people get caught red handed:

  • Hand in cookie jar
  • Feathers coming out of cat’s mouth in a cartoon
  • Last item searched for in your Google search engine box


His list made me start thinking about ways

  • Skipping class and posting on face book and professor later reads it and the time you posted it
  • Security camera footage of you at the scene
  • Being caught saying something under your breath that gets broadcast to the whole stadium because your mike is on
  • Making a big deal out of being a vegan and being caught sitting in the corner of a Whataburger scarfing down a Barbecue Cheddar Burger (2 100% Pure American Beef patties with shredded cheese, pickles, onions, topped off with bold barbecue sauce) in another county by friends who just happened to be passing through.

Back in 2002 Bill Hybels wrote a book called Who Are You When No One’s Looking: Choosing Integrity, Resisting Compromise. I haven’t read it, but I wish I’d thought of the title. It’s a great question.

I’ll bet lots of people have interesting stories about times they have been caught doing something they weren’t supposed to be where they weren’t supposed to be doing it. Some of them might even be fit to tell. I’d love to hear them. Some of them might even preach!

Saying No and Saying No

On another topic, did you know that you don’t have to say yes to everything people ask you to do? There is a whole body of literature in Christian spirituality on “saying yes and saying no.” I have taught this topic for several years in a spiritual formation class for seminary students.  I have had my students read a helpful essay by M. Shawn Copeland called “Saying Yes and Saying No.” (Chapter 5 of Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for Searching People, Edited by Dorothy C. Bass). But, as we all know,  teaching something and putting it into practice oneself are two different things.

I’ve been working on it, though. I’ve been practicing standing in front of the mirror and placing my tongue against my inside upper teeth and slowing, deliberately saying the word “no.” I highly recommend it. I said “no” to two things this week. One was an invitation to teach a lay speaker’s course the weekend my husband and I have planned to go to the Hill Country for our 30th wedding anniversary. The other was to attend a social event to welcome new students to SMU. It fell on the day I have promised my 21 year old son to help him get settled in his new apartment, hang curtains, etc. During the same week, I also said yes to two invitations later this fall to speak in area churches, but there was a time when that wouldn’t have been enough for my works righteousness-dominated conscience. There was a time when I would have felt guilty about refusing the other two requests. But maybe then I was more susceptible to false guilt and had more permeable boundaries than I do now. That’s progress, I think.  I’m afraid I may be going too far with this though. Earlier this afternoon I drove by lemonade stand without stopping because I was in a hurry to get home and write this blog. 

What’s Obsolete Now?

On another topic, I’ve been thinking about plot twists in movies and novels that have been made obsolete by technology.

There are no fingerprints at the crime scene so the killer gets away. (Ah, but now there’s DNA testing of evidence)

The spy has to cross enemy lines to get the documents in the leather pouch into the right hands. (Or he could just send it as an email attachment.

There is no way to trace the villain’s shady financial dealings to get a conviction (Just get the 14 year hacker to do it)

George drives too fast in traffic and loses Jerry and they can’t contact each other (iPHone)

(Obscure Seinfeld reference)

There must be hundreds of examples I haven’t thought of. I think this might preach because as Christians we live a new life that makes the old life with its strategies and methods and motivations obsolete.

Says Paul, “From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view…if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:15,17)

 I’m going to spend some of my meditation time this week discerning some examples of  attitudes and , actions that Christ’s influence in my inner life makes obsolete.

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