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Of Toilet Bolts and Troubling Jolts  

There's no way it should have been that difficult. All I was trying to do was replace our broken toilet seat. You remove two screws, pop off the old seat, and install the new one. A five-minute job—ten at the most.

The first bolt came right off. The other—not so much. Rusty! More than rusted, it appeared welded. No amount of torque from my wrench or spray from my WD-40 made it budge.

It was time to get serious. With a power tool, I could slice the bolt off and grind down some of the wing nut. Still no go! Finally, we ended up drilling out the brass screw. By the time we finally "won," the toilet's exterior oozed oil, rusted flakes, and metal powder. And did I mention my face wore the same concoction (you practically hug the toilet bowl to work on it)? It just shouldn't have been that difficult!!

Or should it have?

Charlie “Tremendous Jones” once quipped, “A lot of people are miserable because they expect everything to go right. They’re asking for misery!”

Exactly where do we get the notion that life should be easy? Or comfortable? Without a shred of experience or evidence to support it, we embrace this undying fiction of a smooth life here on earth. Heaven?  Yes! But here and now?  Bible teacher Michael Easley is fond of reminding us that "Life, at best, is a clean bus station."

In John 16:33, Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

He didn’t say we might have trouble. He didn’t say there was a possibility of trouble. He said we would have trouble.

Thank God for Jesus—the Overcomer.

He overcame sin.

He overcame death.

He'll overcome anything in your life or mine.

 
Unfulfilled Expectations  

It's the most impressive mountain range in the state of Illinois.

You say there are no mountain ranges in the Land of Lincoln? Okay. So maybe I've exaggerated the peaks of rust that jut skyward near Chicago's Kedzie Avenue. Upon closer examination, the man-made mounds of steel reveal surprisingly recognizable chunks of everyday stuff.

Crane-mounted magnets and hydraulic claws paw at the piles, sorting and stacking washing machines, cars, refrigerators, dryers, freezers, and more. Though I’m glad for the recycling, I’m a bit sad for myself—and you.

In those piles, I see the investment of so many false hopes, not to mention big dollars. We were just sure the rush of owning that new car would translate into a lasting satisfaction of knowing we’d finally joined the cool kids.  Somehow it didn’t. And that new refrigerator—the one with the TV monitor built into the door—was going to revolutionize our grocery shopping, saving us time and money. Somehow it didn’t.

There it all stands, a pricey pinnacle of unfulfilled expectations ready to be recycled.

These mountains of mangled machinery haunt me with a solitary question. Why do we place hope—any hope—in a man-made thing? In the long history of this world, has there ever been one single manufactured thing that brought lasting peace? Or enduring hope? Or endless joy? 

Possessions can certainly streamline our work, save time, or bring happy distractions and momentary pleasure. But as our things wear out or rust out, their exaggerated offers of fulfillment deteriorate, as well.

Jesus never said, "Come to your stuff, and you will find rest." But He did say, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden—and I will give you rest." 

Refreshing—but never recycled—Truth.  That’s Jesus, our only lasting satisfaction. 

 
Holy Expectation  

Our two garden boxes are nothing to brag about. But come July or August, they will produce: beans, tomatoes, onions and peppers (sweet and spicy). We have every expectation of enjoying our own organic crops.  

The soil we used was pre-loaded with plant minerals. We’ve watered regularly and there’s been plenty of sun. I even yanked a couple of weeds earlier today. So there’s every reason to hope for a harvest. 

The other day, in a weird warped moment, I asked myself, how would I feel if after all the work (mostly my wife’s) of planting, watering, fertilizing and weeding we got nothing for our return. Not one tomato or pepper. Or maybe just a handful of string beans. What then?

Honestly, I’d feel ripped off. More than that, I think I’d feel a sense of righteous indignation: “How dare those plants take in water and nutrients and have every opportunity to thrive—but give back nothing! After all, they were planted to produce!”

My harvest harangue was quickly interrupted with the thought, “What about you, Jon? Doesn’t God have the right to expect a harvest from your life?” 

Consider the rich soil of my heritage—a godly family upbringing. Consider the fertilization and watering of my faith in an education at Moody Bible Institute...the mentorship of several strong believers...the faithful teaching of our pastor. 

How could it be “normal” or “acceptable” for there to be little or no harvest from my life? Or yours?

We don’t all enjoy the same rich background, spiritually. But we’ve all been bought by Christ at a price. And He has expectations for every one of us. In John 15:8 Jesus asserts, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Catch that? Bearing fruit is the proof of our discipleship.

Planted to produce. That’s you. That’s me.  Call it—God’s holy expectation. 

So how’s it growing?

 
A Curious Collection  

Harriet Miller Ellwood passed away quietly on July 16, 1910.

You say you’re not familiar with Harriet? She married Isaac Ellwood, a fabulously wealthy businessman who earned his millions selling and distributing barbed wire.

Diana and I visited their estate in DeKalb, Illinois—a town known for corn more than wire.  Apart from the stately home the Ellwoods built, what caught my eye was an unusual collection of, well, stuff.

I refer to the lot of minerals, relics, and curiosities made by Mrs. Issac L. Elwood. Its treasures number in the hundreds and include:

  • A flower from Lincoln’s coffin
  • Lava from Mount Vesuvius
  • Piece of petrified snake
  • Petrified fish
  • Petrified potato (what’s with the fixture on petrified things?)
  • Stones from Washington’s monument
  • Gold quarts from the Black Hills
  • Pot from Old Ireland (cooking pot, not the stuff sold today on every street corner as CBD)
  • Stones from the Island of Ischia (extra credit if you can find it on a map)
  • Part of Washington’s flagstaff from Mount Vernon
  • Wood from an old treasure chest owned by Washington’s grandfather
  • Beans from the Sandwich Islands (huh?)
  • Jawbones of sawfish
  • Wood from the battlefield of Waterloo
  • Turkish newspaper

Such an eclectic mix begs questions like: Why did Mrs. Elwood want these things in the first place? How much did she pay for all that stuff (the petrified fish, for starters)? Precisely what was the going price for a flower from Lincoln’s coffin—or a hunk of Washington’s flagstaff?

It's easy to paint Mrs. Elwood as a strange lady with even more eccentric tastes.  But we collect, too: stamps, coins, dolls—and remember Beanie Babies?  We’ll leave them all behind, of course, when death comes knocking. But I hope when that day comes, I am known less for the collection of my physical stuff (my garage is embarrassingly cluttered) and more for the invisible:

  • A life of steady prayers
  • A mind of favorite Scriptures
  • A trail of faithful witness
  • A heart of Jesus’ love

Now there’s a collection worth sharing.

 
94 Years Young  

“I'm an electrical engineer turned Bible teacher and theologian. I hope that's not shocking.”  Fred Dickason has a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.  He is 94 years young—and I do mean young.

He zips around his apartment complex, greeting just about everyone by name, then welcomes us into his home.  There, we record an interview for an upcoming Moody Radio broadcast.

Fred's answers and reflexes are lightning-fast. We are discussing his newest book, Dangers of the Spirit World.  Though several of Fred’s books are considered classroom standards in seminaries and Christian colleges, he’s lately given Amazon eBooks a whirl.

After the interview, we head down to the cafe for lunch. Fred opts for a Rueben sandwich and coffee. Here, we learn that during his college years, he helped develop infrared technology for Texas Instruments. But God had other plans for Dr. Dickason, who ultimately spent 34 years on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute, where my wife and I met him.

To say Fred is still active is to say Bill Gates is still rich.  “I have counseled over 650 people with demonic problems for over 46 years. I have seen the Lord Jesus free Christians from oppression and lead them into a life of fellowship and victory.”

Fred quotes Scripture easily—and confidently.  He misses his wife, loves his kids, and glows about his grandkids.  And—he’s working on another book project.

As our time runs out, he escorts us to the lobby, where we walk by a grand piano.  He offers to play a quick song as we depart. Fred is no wannabe.  He plays musically and meaningfully. 

In the sixties, the Beatles playfully asked, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?"  At 94, Fred Dickason is still feeding others spiritually. 

You might say he’s in it—for the long haul.

 

Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you

- Isaiah 46:4

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016