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Big Red Suitcase  

My red American Tourister suitcase—the one with the nice spinner wheels—lived a rough life and died an early death.  Despite the widely held belief that duct tape can fix anything, Ol’ Red gave up the ghost.  Black residue from countless strips of adhesive oozed from a gash that ran most of the length of the top seam, and it didn’t take a doctor to know it was time for the final trip—out to the curb.

Yet, based on the rattle of  Ol' Red's innards, I figured I ought first to perform a sort of autopsy to see what might be hiding inside.  Here’s what I found in my “empty” suitcase:

  • Business card for “Kernel Poppers” in St. Augustine, FL
  • Map of Oslo, Norway
  • Train ticket from Oslo to Bergen
  • “Official Map of Bergen” (glad I didn’t sucker for a lesser unofficial version)
  • Brochure for the King David light show in Jerusalem
  • Western Wall brochure, Jerusalem
  • Antique pottery shard from Israel
  • Romanian cultural book
  • International transit receipt from Toronto Pearson airport
  • Name tag from Global Partners training event in Ghana, West Africa
  • Hand sewn fabric bag from Albania
  • Bus ticket to Las Vegas’ “Deuce” bus system
  • To do list written on “Glen Eyrie” Colorado stationary
  • Page of Sermon notes from Jacksonville’s Church of Eleven Twenty-Two
  • Four metal hangars (trust me—we need them where we travel)
  • 2 Thomas Kinkade Knick-knacks.
  • Dog-eared gospel tract titled, “The Amazing Life of Jesus Christ.”
  • Hampton Inn paper pad
  • Interview notes written on a Days Inn pad
  • Three blank lined 4x6 index cards
  • Funeral memorial card of a friend
  • Ziplock bag with two Vitamin C booster packets (will sell for $25 each or $45 for both)
  • Individually wrapped “Wet Ones” antibacterial wipe (now on eBay—starting bid is $250 for the one wipe).
  • Dental floss
  • Four rubber bands: three green, one blue
  • 3 Gift bags
  • Unopened gift bag tissue
  • Two plastic file folders
  • Canceled Wal-Mart check, plus receipt
  • Power strip with six plug-ins
  • Zippered airline-issued overnight kit featuring socks, toothbrush, and eye patch
  • One LED light switch
  • Assorted plastic bags
  • Earphone suitable for phone use.
  • Miniature scroll copy of the Ten Commandments
  • 56 cents in various coins
  • American Tourister Limited Ten Year Global Warranty card

Consider—all that junk was tucked away in those pockets, which I dragged from country to country. And get this—my eclectic global assortment weighed a total of four pounds. Almost 10% of the allowable airline weight was "spoken for" by junk!

Thanks to Covid-19, most are spending much more time at home.  And some of us are doing spring cleaning like I was. But why limit ourselves to just cleaning our stuff?  Why not a cleaning of the soul, as well?

Who knows what kind of spiritual junk you and I are needlessly carrying around inside us? Stuff that drags us down and wears us out in our witness for Christ. Time to do some soul cleaning!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

—Hebrews 12:1

 

 

 

 
Jack and the Wheelchair Guy  

“I just dunno if I did the right thing or not."  Jack shifted back and forth from one leg to the other.  My friend was upset, so naturally, I urged Jack to spill his story.

“It was midafternoon in downtown Chicago,” he recalled.  “I walked past a truck being unloaded outside a CVS store. Then I saw him.”

“Saw who, Jack?”

"This guy in a wheelchair was coming toward me.  As I got closer, he somehow managed to flip his wheelchair over on its back.  Made me suspicious, so my antennae were up."

“Did you help him up, Jack?”

“Well...no.  Part of me wanted to.  Part of me was afraid that this was a setup.  I wondered if the moment I stooped down, some accomplice would appear from nowhere with a knife to my back."

“What’d the guy do?”

“He slowly twisted around, trying to get himself upright.  I felt more guilty than ever when I saw he had no feet.  Just rolled up cuffs—plenty dirty, too. Truthfully, every inch of him was filthy. I asked him if he was okay, and did he need any help."

“Response?”

“He said he was fine—didn’t need help.  But I sure felt conflicted watching him crawling on the pavement.”

Jack shook his head, shifted his weight back and forth again, and continued. "I'm thinking....This guy is filthy.  This guy may be part of a setup.   This guy may have Coronavirus. So—I eventually left, as he seemed to be making progress. And now, I wonder if I just played a starring role in a 21st century edition of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Was I wrong?”

Here’s my answer: it’s never wrong to stop and care. It’s always right to ask if someone needs help. But we cannot force our help, our gospel, or our Savior. We can—and must—offer all three!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.   

--2 Cor. 1:3,4

 
Weary of Coronavirus  

I am weary of Coronavirus.

I am weary of the apocalyptic level of coverage found on every news channel or website.

I am weary of watching health experts and reporters and news anchors each vying to outdo each other in a bid for higher ratings.

I am weary of trying to sort through what is hype and what is truth.

Weary of wondering whether we'll get to go on an upcoming trip.

Weary of wondering if I've made a fatal error because I haven't bought 900 rolls of toilet paper. 

Weary of the dizzying stock market maelstrom (can our retirement savings possibly recover?).

And of course, I’m weary of the compulsion to wash or reach for hand sanitizer every single time I happen to touch a door or counter or....even think about doing so!

I’m weary.  Maybe you are, too.

But Jesus has a special invitation to folks like you and me, people who are weary at the level of the soul.  He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

That’s not a suggestion to stick our heads in the sand.  Or pretend all is well and sing Kum Bah Yah. The invitation is to come to Him—and let Him be our rest.  That rest is found in His Word, His kingdom, and His righteousness.

As for the Coronavirus,  I don't have any answers.  And—despite their many degrees and dour faces--neither do the experts on TV.  

But I don't have to have answers to have rest.  All I have to do is come to Jesus.  Right about now, that sounds mighty appealing to me.

Covid-19 or Matthew 11:28.  Where’s your focus?

 

 
Lost ID  

It controls nearly every aspect of my work life. With it, I can freely access buildings, elevators, studios, and locked doors. Without it, I am stuck on the outside. I’m referring to my Moody Radio security ID, of course.  The one I misplaced.

For about a week, I borrowed a Lost ID card from our Public Safety team but delayed replacing my own.  What held me back, you ask?  Vanity.

Like most employee IDs, ours feature a prominent photo of your face. Having been treated by a dermatologist (who burned off several areas of facial skin), it didn't seem like the best time to take a photo. So I delayed and delayed.

At last, the scabs healed over, so I finally went in to get my replacement card.  The kicker? They didn't bother to take a new photo!  They merely used the image they had on file.  If only I'd known.

My walk down Vanity Lane is a likely metaphor for the attitude that many of us have toward God.  He hungers for our intimate companionship.  But a twisted sense of guilt screams at us that we are dirty and unworthy—that we need to clean ourselves up somehow. 

And make no mistake—sin is an insult to God.  It is a cancer of the soul, a stench of the most wretched imaginable.  But having received Christ's forgiveness, the ugly scabs of our sin are gone.  Not even a scar is left.

When God thinks of you, the image He has on file is of someone who has been washed thoroughly, forgiven entirely, and is loved unconditionally.  All of this because of Christ. 

Perfectly righteous.  Perfectly forgiven.  Perfectly lovable. That’s you—in Christ!

God longs for your company.  So what’s holding you back?

 

 
What's in Your Mouth?  

It’s a verse I wish wasn’t in the Bible. Do you relate?

I’m referring to Psalms 34:1, a harmless—if not pleasant-sounding—verse.  David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth” (emphasis added).

The ad campaign humorously asks, “What’s in your wallet?” This Psalm asks, “What’s in your mouth?”

I wish David hadn’t used that word in Psalms 34:1, continually.   Because a lot of the time, you’ll hear complaining coming out of my mouth.  Or criticism.  Or worse.  What’s in your mouth?

The more I study, the more convinced I am that when it comes down to it, praise really is a choice.  It’s not about a spiritual mist that wafts over you.  It’s a decision to give God credit or thanks or glory—regardless of our circumstances.

Problem is, praise is not natural!  Not for sinners like us. In fact, praise is sometimes the grittiest, gutsiest thing you could possibly do.

Last week, I flew to Jacksonville, Florida to shoot some video and photos for Moody Radio.  Upon landing, I attempted to connect with my car rental company.  But nobody answered the phone.  On top of that, a rainstorm unleashed on us.  There I stood, sulking—and soaking—wondering if I would be forever stranded at the airport. 

I confess this Psalm popped into my head at that very moment.   Talk about an inconvenient truth!  Honestly, I struggled to “praise the Lord at all times.”  I was angry. 

But consider this thought from Joni Tada.  You’ll recall that at the age of 17, she dove into the Chesapeake Bay, injured her neck and has now spent  50 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.  Joni writes:

Half a century of paralysis has also shown me how high the cosmic stakes really are. Whenever I fidget in my confinement, I can almost hear Satan taunt God—as he did with Job—“Look at her, see? She doesn’t really trust you. Test her with more pain and you’ll see her true colors!” When the Devil insists God’s people only serve him when life is easy, I have the high honor of proving him wrong. To be on the battlefield where the mightiest forces in the universe converge in warfare? By God’s grace, I’m all in.

Guess my little airport hiccup wasn’t worth the rant.

Maybe your problem isn’t, either.

Hey—what’s in your mouth?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016