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Search for a Shark Tooth   

You’ve been there, gazing into the night sky with friends, all of whom find a shooting star—except you. Or everyone in the car spots the huge eagle—except you.  

That was my experience padding along the shoreline of Mickler’s Landing, on the southern end of Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach. Famous for shark teeth, we were there on the hunt for these black triangular treasures that wash up on the shore.

My granddaughter quickly found one in the foamy wash. Ditto my daughter, whose haul for the morning totaled seven. Me? I found none, despite many steps up and down the sand. An experienced shark tooth guy named Ian, who keeps his impressive collection inside a conch shell, coached me a bit. “There’s a distinct shine to the black. Once you learn to spot them, it’s easy.”  

Yeah right. Easy for Ian. Easy for my daughter. Even my granddaughter, Joslynn. But me—I was toothless (ur, shark toothless) and getting discouraged. It was lunchtime. A trip to McDonald’s with the kids sounded a lot more tempting than a vain search for shark teeth. I was more than ready to quit. 

And that’s when I found it. My very own shark’s tooth: black and glistening, just like I’d been told! I touched it, photographed it, and showed it off. Exhilarating! And to think I almost traded this moment for a Big Mac.  


I wonder if my walk on the beach is a metaphor for how many of us feel about finding lost people we can connect with to share our faith. We’re told there are lost people all around us. Indeed, Jesus Himself assured us “the fields are white for harvest.”  

“Yeah right, “ we respond cynically. Somehow, we don’t seem to find these folks ready for harvest. But maybe there are some lessons you and I can take away with us from my shark tooth search.  

Lesson #1 Get out on the beach!  If you don’t look, you can’t find. Jesus went where the lost people were, never expecting them to knock at His door. 

Lesson #2 Commit to the search long term. You might connect quickly, like Joslynn. More than likely, sharing Jesus is going to take time.  

Lesson #3 Expect to be tempted to quit. Don’t! The world is full of temporal treasures and comforts—all vying for your attention. But what can compare to the worth of a soul?

A Big Mac is a small prize when eternity is at stake. Stay hungry for what matters. 


How long does a Sunday School teacher's impact last?  

How long does a Sunday School teacher’s impact last?

As a first-grader, it was riveting watching the Sunday School teacher stick images of Bible characters on a flannel graph.  There was just something about “seeing” Joseph and his coat of many colors. Or Daniel in the lions’ den.  The mischievous me admits to chuckling at the figures when they occasionally tumbled off the felt board.  But those stories somehow came alive (my wife, a preschool teacher, tells me that even in an age of iPads, kids still adore flannel graph stories).

Around the second or third grade, I recall Mrs. Patterson inviting our entire Sunday School class over for a party at her house. Great food, games, and fun.  What kid wouldn't love that?  I still remember it half a century later.

How long does a Sunday School teacher’s impact last?  Well, it was a Sunday School teacher who reached out to my unsaved father, visiting with him week after week for nearly 18 months before Dad finally came to Christ.  And that was more than 60 years ago.

Recently, I bought a book on eBay written by Charles Spurgeon titled, John Ploughman's Talk.  Inside the front cover, I found this inscription written in a red pencil:

“Present from my Sunday School teacher and schoolmate, John B. Thomas. 

Christmas, 1897.” 

It was signed by R.S. Diehl.  Who can tell what kind of impact this Sunday School teacher’s gift made on young Diehl?  Maybe the book fired him with an unquenchable love for the Savior.  Or maybe it kept him from choosing godless paths.  Heaven will reveal all.

Meanwhile, 123 years after the giving of this gift, I hold the evidence of Mr. Thomas' generosity in my hand.  And no doubt, his thoughtful gesture will be a blessing in my life, too!

How long does a Sunday School teacher’s impact last?



         And likely—more often than we could ever imagine—all of eternity.

That’s how long.

Yesterday River  

Ever hear of a town named Goofy Ridge?

I didn't think so.  However, Goofy Ridge is a real place, near the center of Illinois. And that's not the only oddball city name in the Land of Lincoln.  There's Bonegap (southeastern Illinois) and Oblong, also southeast.   Head far south, and you'll arrive at a town named Muddy. But if you’re hungry, by all means, stop at Sandwich in DeKalb county.   Careful—or you might lose yourself in Lost Nation (Ogle County).  But you’re always welcome in Hometown (on the southeast border of Chicago).  Who knew city names could be so entertaining?

On a recent flight over Canada, I stared at the map detailing our path and was intrigued by a landmark identified as Yesterday River. It begins at —wait for it—Yesterday Lake, northeast of Cochrane, Ontario.

You have to wonder why they named it, "Yesterday River."  Did someone fall in love there?  Or lose a loved one there?  What memories lie buried in the banks of Yesterday River?

Bet you’ve met some people whose thoughts and conversations are so focused on the past, you wonder if they live in Yesterday River.  For them, everything that was ever good happened in the past. Nothing of the future intrigues or inspires—let alone—interests them.

If you’re a follower of Christ, it’s okay to visit Yesterday River, but it's not okay to live there.   When Jesus returned to heaven, his last words to the disciples were not, "Go and reminisce."  He said, "Go and make disciples!"  

In Isaiah 43:19, God says, "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

It’s a new year.  A new slate.  A new set of possibilities. Maybe resolution #1 for you and me this year is to spend less time at Yesterday River, and more time looking for the new thing God is doing even now.  Happy New Year!

It Will All Make Sense  

Christmas Eve with a six-year-old is a Christmas Eve is worth doing!

So there we were—Lucy and me—at our church.  She snuggled up on my lap as we watched Pastor Jim Lennon sketch a large chalk-art presentation all timed to a music track.   

At first, Pastor Jim’s broad strokes and dark colors impressed her.  But as the drawing continued, Lucy seemed a bit puzzled.  “What’s he doing?” she asked.  I explained that he was mixing colors for detail and depth.  “And what are those?” she inquired, pointing to some black rectangles in the upper left corner. I told her, “They might be houses from the town of Bethlehem” (seemed like a reasonable guess on Christmas eve!). 

As the music soared and then quieted, Lucy asked one more time, “What’s that he’s doing now?” 

Full disclosure: I've enjoyed watching a number of these drawings unfold—enough to know that Pastor Jim pre-draws part of the scene using colors that are invisible—until a black light shines on them.  So I had a sense of what might be ahead.

I said to Lucy, “In a few minutes, he’ll shine a special light—and then you’ll see everything.  It’ll all make sense.”  With one final assessment of his masterpiece, Pastor Jim stepped back and lit up the black lights.  

As he did so, every detail finally came into view: a lovely rendering of the nativity cave scene.  Stupefied shepherds bent over the manger as Joseph and Mary stared.  Imagine the questions they must have had. 

  • Who was this child—really?
  • What about all the prophecies?
  • Why the shepherds and their account of the angels?

And then my own words boomeranged back: “In a few minutes, he’ll shine a special light—and then you’ll see everything.  It will all make sense.”   Part of me wonders if that’s advice a lot of us could use today.

Maybe at this time of holiday cheer, you’re a little low in the “cheer” department:

You grieve the loss of a loved one.

You groan at the news from your doctor.

What you are going through at the moment makes no sense at all.  Not in the least.

Could I invite you to reconsider the conversation Lucy and I shared?  “In a few minutes, He’ll shine a special light—and then you’ll see everything. It will all make sense.”

Okay—so maybe that’s a bit oversimplified. Not only do we sometimes have to wait for more than a few minutes to get our answers, sometimes it's years.  Or we don't get the answers we were looking for in this lifetime.  Still, I have every confidence that someday, God really will shine His light on you—and you’ll see everything.  It will all make sense.

So take heart.

Even if yours is a bit heavy.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.  --Michah 7:7

Speak the Name!  

Carl is one of those guys who calls ‘em as he sees 'em.  He works for a public school that features an annual Breakfast with Santa the first Saturday in December.  "It's a nice event," Carl assesses.  "Pancakes and sausages and Santa.  What's not to like?"  

It’s a lot of extra work for Carl.  “We get maybe 100 kids with their parents.” But at this year’s breakfast with Santa, Carl—who is a believer—stood talking with a school official. "You know it's funny when you think about it," offered Carl.   "All this work because of a guy who doesn't even exist—Santa.  But say one word about Jesus, and you're in big trouble."  The administrator said, “I have to agree.” 

Maybe one of the reasons hearing about Jesus is so troubling to some is because the moment we’re out in public, those of us who know Him often act like we don’t.  So the name of Jesus is increasingly rarely heard. 

At the same time, in our secular culture, many Christ-followers feel they've somehow forfeited the right to speak His name.

Not so!  Not Constitutionally and not biblically! On the contrary, Jesus said, "Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32,33).

It’s Christmas.  Let’s speak the name of Jesus.  The holiday unmistakably bears His name!  Sing it!  Say it!  Share it! 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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