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Jack Takes on the ACLU  

“I seen ‘em way before I got to the intersection,” recalled my friend, Jack.  “They were on the sidewalk just outside a Starbucks in downtown Chicago, waving iPads as they gestured.”  I knew a story was brewing with Jack. There always is.

“Who were they?” I asked, taking Jack’s bait.

“At first, I wasn’t sure. Since I go that way a lot, I figured it was probably an environmental group like Sierra.  You see them a lot.  Young folks hungry for conversations and contributions—mostly the latter,” Jack chuckled.

“So if it wasn’t Sierra, who was it?”

“The ACLU. That’s who.  Advocating to keep abortion legal.”

“So did you engage them or avoid them?”

“Actually, I wanted to yell at ‘em.  But that’s already been done—and with little impact.  Besides, it didn’t seem consistent with the What would Jesus do? bracelet I still wear.

“Okay, so you didn’t yell, Jack.  But what did you say?”

“For a long time, I just listened to the guy who’d cornered me. I wanted him to get the sense that I cared about him as a human—-that I respected him.  Everything in me wanted to argue.  But honestly, I believe the Holy Spirit was reigning me in.”

“Then what?”

“Then came a pause in the conversation, and he asked me what I thought.  I told him I had heard his perspective but was troubled by the medical reality that an unborn child has a beating heart and fingers and fingerprints very early on.  To abort such a little one seemed cruel.”

“Any response?”

“He made it clear he was comfortable with the idea of taking the life of an unborn kid.  It became obvious we were worlds apart in our thinking, and I knew things were drawing to a close when he stopped showing me stuff on his iPad.”

“So how did it end, Jack?”

“The conversation just naturally came to a close.  But here’s the thing”—Jack stuck his finger in my face. “Nobody yelled. In fact, I even complimented the guy.  Then we shook hands.”

“Very cool, Jack.”

 

Very cool, indeed.  In a culture that is as polarized as it is poisoned with vitriol, a follower of Jesus had a respectful conversation instead of a shouting match.  That sounds quite a bit like something Jesus would do.   Way to go, Jack!

 
Her Name is Agnes.   

Her name is Agnes. 

She misses her mother. 

 

The shards of her broken life frame a story that redfines tragedy.  I listened to bits and pieces as we sat in her third floor apartment outside of Chicago—a long way from her childhood home in Budapest, Hungary.  At the age of eleven, she awoke to the sound of a gunshot in her front yard, announcing the arrival of German storm troopers.  Black booted soldiers forced their way through the front door—in search of Agnes’ mother. 

 

One week previously, the Nazis hauled away her father in a similar early morning assault after which he was forced into a large truck transport heading for a death camp.  Ironically, the Nazis needed a Hungarian who spoke German to assist them with navigation.  Agnes’ father was fluent, so he volunteered.  Upon arrival, the Germans—perhaps as a thank you gesture—released him and he eventually made it back to Budapest. 

 

November 20, 1944. Agnes recalls that her mother was “herded away at gunpoint, bundled up in her Persian lamb coat with a backpack containing mere necessities.  She tried to put on a brave face as she kissed me goodbye.”

 

Agnes never saw her mother again. Not that she didn’t try.  “For years, I walked up and down streets looking for her.”  Nor was this to be Agnes’ only loss at the hands of the Nazis (her mother died of “natural causes” in a concentration camp. 

 

On a cold winter night, they took her aunt and uncle.  “Along with many others, they were taken to the shore of the icy Danube river where they were shot and left to die in the frigid water.”

 

Only later did she discover that their deaths at the banks of the river were as likely to be the result of drowning as gun fire.  “As ammunition dwindled, the Nazis improvised by wiring several people together before firing one shot…killing as many as ten people with one shot.  They had become masters at exterminating Jews.”

 

Peering into a black and white photo on the wall of her apartment, my eyes locked briefly with this couple whose lives were snuffed out.  I try but cannot process any of this emotionally.  

 

Proudly—and still with a smile—Agnes shows me a photo of her mother and father.  The smiling little kid—the one without a care in the world—is Agnes.  She lost that world nearly 75 years ago.  

 

How could it be that 75 years later one man—Hitler—is still causing so much pain to people like this lady?

 

Her name is Agnes. 

She misses her mother.  

Still. 

 

 

 

 

 

 
When We Fail to Achieve Our Dreams  

It is earth’s highest mountain above sea level. 

It is also the the most coveted prize in mountain climbing. 

 

At 29,029 feet, Mount Everest pierces high enough into the sky to be on a level with commercial jetliners. Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzig Norrgay made the first successful climb in 1953, nearly 4000 others have made the attempt and about 200 have died in the process. 

This season alone, after forking out $25,000 for a climbing permit, at least 11 climbers have died.  Among them is Christopher Kulish, a 62-year-old attorney from Boulder, Colorado. 

Ironically, Mr. Kulish did not die in his attempt to reach the iconic summit.  He successfully climbed to the top (nearly 5.5. Miles up), having finally achieved his dream of climbing the tallest mountains on all seven continents. According to early reports, he died at a camp somewhere below the summit—exact details unknown.

Without in any way wishing to trivialize the death of Attorney Kulish, I see in his tragedy a cautionary spiritual tale.  We followers of Christ often set high goals for ourselves, or envision ourselves ministering in grand ways in grand places and spaces.  Some of that bravado springs from good and noble motives.  Some of it is of the flesh.  

When we fail to achieve our dreams, we often ball ourselves up in a tangle of hurt and humiliation.  I'm reminded of a conversation God had in the Old Testament with a character named Baruch. Through the prophet, Jeremiah, God said:

But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them.

—Jeremiah 45:5

 

Some times we wonder why God hasn’t allowed this or that specific ministry dream to materialize.  Could it be that having achieved “the summit” God knows we would collapse on the way down?  After all, every mountain top experience has its downside.   Or maybe, having achieved the goal, we would somehow pronounce our work for God “finished”—and lose our spiritual fervor. 

 

I do not say we should not set goals or attempt great things for God.  I'm simply reminding myself (and perhaps you, as well) that my ultimate goal must be nothing less and nothing other than the glory of God alone. 

 

 
Memorial Day Salute  

Not many get shot out of the sky and live to tell about it.

Even fewer reach the age of 100.

Freelin Carlton has done both. 

The World War 2 vet was captain of a B-24 bomber, notoriously tricky to fly.  The “Liberator’s” controls were stiff and heavy.  No cabin pressurization, no heater, no windshield wipers—and no washroom.  Worse, the plane had only one exit—in the tail—which was challenging to access in an emergency evacuation.  Hence, the bomber enjoyed the dubious title, “The Flying Coffin.”  Between 1940 and 1945, the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation built more than 18,000 of the massive planes, more than any other aircraft in the war.

On February 24, 1944, Captain Carlton, nosed his bomber over the Netherlands in an Allied Air offensive known as “Big Week,” when anti-aircraft fire hit his plane.  But the crew managed to limp into Germany until intercepted by Luftwaffe fighters that killed three of the plane’s gunners before delivering a death blow to the aircraft itself. 

All of the remaining seven crew members parachuted, with Captain Carlton—bleeding from a shrapnel wound in his right foot—landing between two trees.  Two hours later, Germans hauled him off to Stalag Luft 1 where he spent the balance of the war as a prisoner.

Fast forward 75 years later.  In Carmel Valley, California, Captain Carlton received an unusual 100th birthday gift: a package that came all the way from Germany.  Aviation History Magazine reports that inside the box were fragments of his ill-fated bomber.  Eberhard Haelbig, a member of a non-profit group that tracks and researches air war relics, had verified the pieces as part of Carlton’s doomed aircraft.

Along with parts of the plane, Haelbig included a note which said, in part, “Thank you, Captain Carlton, and thank you to the Greatest Generation for your fight against evil and for liberating my country.  I’m a German by birth, but an American at heart.”

Consider this blog a Memorial Day salute to  Captain Carlton—along with a nod of appreciation to Eberhard Haelbig, whose comment takes me to Philippians 3:20-21.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to himself.

 

SOURCE: Aviation History Magazine, July 2019
 
When Civil War Looms  

We are a nation at war.  With each other. 

 

For now, the battles are fought with blogs rather than bombs, tweets rather than tanks.  Still, we appear to be inching toward a civil war of values.   

 

So where does the Bible fit into a culture like ours?  What exactly is the role of Scripture in a divided nation?  And can we really expect the Bible to have a hearing as the fighting heats up?

 

These are the questions that gushed over the banks of my mind as I held a copy of the American Bible Society’s 1864 annual report. Recalling that this book was released right in the middle of a literal Civil War (1861-1865) I was dying to know: What was their perspective on the conflict that ultimately engulfed the nation?  What role did the Bible have during these tumultuous years?

 

 

The testimony in the following excerpts from the 1864 report are profound:

 

Amid national convulsions…producing such untold calamity in the land…there is no check upon the spread of God’s Word.  

The great number of prisoners of war held by the armies of the United States has made a constant demand for the Word of God among them.  Many letters have been received from prisoners requesting reference Bibles for themselves  and for their fellow prisoners, who desire them for use in their Bible classes.  The Word of God has been received with gratitude and eagerness.

Fearful as the war has become, every true friend of the Bible will rejoice that “the Word of God is not bound,” and that the American Bible society, true to its name and principles, has been enabled thus far to carry on its great work above the stormy passions and conflicting interests of the times.

Amid these strange scenes, the Bible, by the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, is doing it’s appropriate work.  

 

(End of quote!) 

 

You and I can do little to stop whatever cultural clashes may be ahead.  But we need not doubt the power of God—and the power of His Word.   It’s a lesson America learned in the first Civil War.  May that truth comfort us as we move toward the second.  

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016