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Early one morning recently I was getting ready to give our son Coleman a bath before he ate his breakfast and caught the bus for his summer school program.  Many of you who read this blog know that Coleman has developmental disabilities related to a genetic disorder called Dubowitz Syndrome.  He is also autistic.  Coleman is 18 years old now and can do numerous things for himself.  However, bathing is not among them, as I have previously written.  As I peeled Coleman’s t-shirt over his head before helping him into the tub, I instinctively said, “Skin a rabbit!”  I didn’t think about it; I just said it.

“Skin a rabbit” is a phrase that may or not be familiar to you.  I honestly don’t know how widespread its usage is.  I assume that it is primarily Southern and rural, but I could be wrong.  I just know that it is an expression that was ingrained in my consciousness from childhood by hearing it used as frequent commentary while a shirt was being taken off by pulling it inside out over someone’s head.  It was an especially common phrase on my mother’s side of the family in south Georgia.  I can still hear Mama Lila’s and Mom’s distinct inflection as they would say it.  The expression makes perfect sense if you have ever had the experience of dressing small game after a hunt.  For those of you who have missed out, I will refrain from going into detail here.   

Pondering the potential unfamiliarity of the expression “skin a rabbit” caused me to consider (again) how extremely confusing some of our expressions and abbreviations can be to the “uninitiated” in our worship assemblies.  It’s not just a concern about unchurched people; even Christians from other churches can be left very much in the dark as they listen to our conversations about congregational activities.

“New Heights will be using the O.C. where B.O.B. meets, but it won’t affect B.A.B.I. or VBS.”  That kind of esoteric speech makes perfect sense to members of the Broken Arrow church where I preach, but guests in our assemblies would likely be caused to feel even more like outsiders who do not speak our particular dialect of Christian code language.  While some further explanations would likely still be needed, their understanding would be greatly enhanced if I spoke to them about the Outreach Center, the Band of Brothers Bible Study, and the Broken Arrow Bible Institute.   

Several years ago, I caught some flack for always saying Vacation Bible School instead of just VBS when I would mention it from the pulpit.  The critical individual couldn’t believe that anyone on planet Earth wouldn’t know what VBS was.  In reality, there are millions of unchurched people who have never sung the “Booster” song and who think that VBS should probably be included in their children’s inoculations.

In most of our churches, acronyms, abbreviations, and other sacred shorthand have proven to be extremely handy and beneficial in our “in-house” congregational communications, and they should certainly continue to be used for those purposes.  However, we need to keep a vigilant sensitivity to the needs and understanding of guests and new members who may only hear us speaking in riddles.   

By the way, I recently spoke with someone (an adult) who had just discovered that IHOP stood for International House of Pancakes.  It was quite a revelation to them!

P.S.  When I ran the spell check tool on this post, it caught VBS and suggested that perhaps I meant VHS!      

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June 2011