Ecclesiastes 3:5 tells us that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. I like embracing. So does my wife. I don’t think she will mind me telling you that, but when she reads this next part, she may never cook another meal for me without spitting in it.

She has always talked about someday buying her first bikini. We both think it will make embracing much more interesting – especially in the spa we finally got repaired this week.

She has never owned one because she tries to maintain that girl-next-door image. But in the privacy of our own home, she can be the girl mamma warned me about. Sorry, this is getting a little racy for the spiritual column. I got ahead of my story because I was anxious to tell you about the bikini.

It was after church one Sunday that I thought to try and encourage her to make that bikini purchase. We wanted to go bowling, but first we had to rush home to change out of our “church clothes.”

If I ever wrote a Jeff Foxworthy type book, “Church clothes” jokes would fill a chapter Jokes like, you know you are a minister when you make your daughters wear a veil with their bikini. You-know-you’re-a minister-if you wear Grranimals made for ministers. (Those tacky clothes where you match the tags and you have a winning outfit.) But you certainly know know-you’re-a minister-if you tell the store clerk that you are shopping for “church clothes.” Needless to say “church clothes” are the very opposite, a total antithesis, of the bikini.

The purpose of our rushing was to beat the crowd to the local bowling alley where games were a buck on Sunday. Ministers are cheap. It is a part of the calling. We were rushing because I’m not the only cheap bowling minister. I know the Methodist Minister deliberately shortens her sermons to beat me to the Chinese Buffet before putting a few down the gutters herself.

Once we arrived home, my wife slipped out of her church dress and into a pair of bowling jeans. She was trying to decide on how to clothe her upper half, when she made some comment on how silly it was to give this much thought to bowling clothes.

Now, I am thinking that her comment was a cry for help. So, I suggested that it would really make our bowling game much more interesting if she wore a bikini top to the bowling alley.

It would surprise most lay people to know that a minister’s wife can become demon possessed – especially when responding to her husband’s poor attempts to be witty at her expense. Of course when she gets that way, she doesn’t twist her head around in circles or projectile vomit, but she does manage to twist any of my loose appendages around my head a few times. When I see those eyes, I retreat in prayer and practice my exorcism techniques. I got an “A” in that class at Seminary.

It should be no revelation to you that she did not bowl in a bikini top. But, nevertheless we do keep passion alive. We share a passion that we both embrace and which embraces us.

The first part of the same verse that talks about embracing tells us that there is a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones. Currently at two places in our country there are a lot of stones being cast away in a momentous clean up at “ground zero.” In the months to come, new stones will be gathered to replace the broken ones.

The strength we will need to gather these stones can come directly from the intimacy we maintain by embracing and becoming embraced by those we love. Our efforts to rebuild a shattered society with the new stones we gather has to be empowered with the embrace of someone who truly loves us and wants to be a part of our dream.

This kind of connection can give you a passion for living that is rarely conveyed in a television movie. Too often we seek an embrace of passion that frees us from responsibility or connection. I think that most of us need to be assured that passion can be securely fastened to responsibility. Passion need not be a fleeting moment in which we shirk responsibility, passion can be the defining creative moment in which new stones are gathered to create something whole again.

By the way, my wife was wrong about something. She told me that no one in the bowling alley would be wearing a bikini top. There was a 6-year-old girl wearing one. I am hoping that the little girl’s example will embolden my wife to buy that bikini for our next bowling game.