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Surprise Face  

You kinda have to see her face to really understand. 

Ava is 21 months old.  Her parents will tell you she is increasingly vested in the “terrible twos” stage, even if her arrival is a tad early. 

Like most kids her age Ava makes sounds, is saying words and even tiny sentences.  She knows her animals and her acute sense of hearing identifies even the slightest chirp, woof, meow or moo. 

A dog barks in the distance and Ava sticks out her index finger, seemingly beckoning the rest of us to listen.  A bird tweets in an overhead tree—her finger points as if in triumph.  Then you look directly into her eyes.

Ava’s are not just blue.  They are stunningly blue.  They remind me of those ads for tinted contact lenses.  But it’s not merely the color of her eyes that grab me.  It’s what she does with them.

When surprised or delighted, Ava’s eyebrows shoot up.  Her mouth puckers into the shape of someone saying “ooh”—but maybe working too hard at it. Her face is equal parts delight and wonder.  We call it her surprise face.

There’s no mistaking the look.  And at 21 months, she’s just cagey enough to know her surprise face brings attention and smiles.  Depending on her mood, she might just perform for you. 

That’s great for Ava.  What about you and me? 

Our world is not just sprinkled but doused—even drenched—in wonder and delight.  Yet scarce is the man or woman who has anything at all resembling a “surprise face.”   Most of us are fabulous with frowns, terrific with tension and awesome with arrogance.  But a surprise face?  A happy look of delight and discovery?  Well, you might say many of us could use a makeover. 

Pour yourself a tall glass of wonder today.  Drink deeply of God’s creation.  Then check out your surprise face in a mirror.  You might just be…surprised!

A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit. 

--Proverbs 15:13

 

 
You Never Know  

Early morning in downtown Chicago. I stepped into a cab almost immediately noticing Moody Radio was playing on the car speakers.  

My driver was from the Ivory Coast and so I told him about my previous trips to West Africa, tossing in a few French phrases as best I could. Then I did the obvious and asked him about the station he was listening to.

“It’s from the Moody Bible” he said.

“That’s great,” I replied, and informed him that I worked at Moody—more specifically for Moody Radio—and that we were headed for the campus.

“Small world,” he said, and then added, “So you must be very careful.”  I was intrigued with his comment and followed up with a question.

“So, you listen to the station that talks about Jesus.  But do you know the Jesus they are talking about?

“Actually, I am Muslim,” he quickly and politely pointed out.  “But I listen to the station every day to the morning show, then turn it off.”   He grew slightly pensive. “Sometimes I think the Muslim God and Christian God are the same.”

I was gentle, but bold, “I have heard this same thing as I’ve talked with other people of the Muslim faith.  But God had a Son named Jesus who claimed to be the Savior of the world.” 

“Yes,” he acknowledged politely, and then added, “My Muslim friends all the time ask me ‘Why do you have that station on?  Why?’  I tell them, ‘It is peaceful.  It gives me peace.’”

A pity that the ride was coming to an end.  I said to him, “Jesus said ‘Peace I give unto you.  My peace—not the peace of the world.’”  He responded with some other nice comments about the station.

As we turned the corner onto Chicago and LaSalle, I drew in a breath and reached back for my years of French language and said in his mother tongue, “Me, I believe Jesus is the King of kings.”  The cab now at the curb, I reached to shake his hand and encouraged him to keep listening to Moody Radio.  “God wants you in the Kingdom of heaven and this station can help you learn how to get there.”

You really never know who’s listening to you…or watching your life…or observing your testimony.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  –1 Peter 3:15

 

 

 

 
Alone in the Playland  

She was the only kid in the McDonald’s Playland.

Apparently, it happens a lot.

Alexa is nine.  Her dad lives in one town, her mom in another,  17 miles away.  She was the only child in the McDonald’s Playland until we arrived with our two grandkids.   Though they are younger than Alexa, she chatted them up.  My wife and I, as well while we waited for our order.

By the time I arrived with our tray of food, Alexa had seated herself at our table and stayed there for the entire duration of our meal.  She seemed plenty hungry—but not for food.

“I’m a Video gamer,” blurted Alexa.  Her preference?  “Games where you shoot people.”  She does not tire of McDonald’s food, even though she spends many hours a week there.  “Yogurt is my favorite,” she informed.

Alexa wore a brightly colored shirt featuring a whimsical cat driving a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.  She pointed out her dad who was seated in a glassed off party room, some thirty feet away.  Dad was glued to his phone, which was glued to the wall, charging.

Following our meal, Alexa joined our two kids climbing the plastic structures and sliding through tubes.  When it was time to wrap up, Alexa had questions: “Are you leaving?  Why?  Are you coming back?”  We told her we’d come back, because we camp in the area.  “So you will come back?” she asked as much as stated.  And then it was time to leave.

My wife took our two grandkids to the bathroom as Alexa went to be with her dad.  She threaded her arm around his, as little girls do.  Leaned her head against his shoulder.  But she might as well have been invisible.  His phone was all he could see. 

I was now seated across from Alexa, 15 feet away holding the Happy Meal toys for our grandkids while they finished in the bathroom.  I waved at Alexa.  On the other side of the glass, she waved back.

Then it was my turn to visit the restroom.  When I came back, Alexa was no longer with her dad.  He was as I’d left him—glued to his phone.  She was now in the back of the place, in the play area.  Our eyes locked for just a moment, Alexa’s and mine.  I waved.  Her curled fingers waved back twice. 

Pretty sure she smiled. 

Pretty sure I teared up.

She was the only kid in the McDonald’s Playland.

Apparently, it happens a lot.

 

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.

--Psalms 27:10

 
Wall of Stories  

History oozes out if its pores—literally.

On Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the spire-topped Tribune Tower clutches at the sky. Every time I walk past, I can’t just walk past.  I linger.  Stare.  Ponder the wall of stories. 

Constructed in 1925, the imposing gothic icon is embedded with stone and brick fragments of impressive pedigree.  Built right into the walls of the Tribune Tower are actual pieces from…

  • The Berlin Wall
  • The Alamo
  • Wartburg Castle

But that’s just the beginning.  Look further and you will find stones from:

  • The White House
  • Coliseum of Rome
  • Temple in Jerusalem
  • Great Pyramid of Giza

The question I have is the same one you have: How did they get these priceless artifacts?  Do you just write the Prime Minister of Italy and say, “Hey, we’re building something new on Michigan Avenue and we’d love to have a chunk of the Coliseum”?  Think about all the stories represented by those walls!

Back in 2560 B.C. when sweaty workers lugged the first stone of the Great Pyramid into place, nobody knew just how great the Great Pyramid would really be.

In 1067, when the last brick was troweled into Wartburg Castle, nobody knew that hundreds of years later within its walls, Martin Luther would translate the Bible into German.

Those stone workers who chiseled the foundation of the White House could never have foreseen the history that would unfold inside the structure they were building.

But here’s the most impressive truth of all. As a follower of Christ, nobody—absolutely nobody—can tell how grand a story God will write on the walls of your life.

You might not feel like much is going on right now as you try to serve Him faithfully. It might seem that there is little to nothing about your spiritual journey worth even noting.   But I’m sure the Eiffel Tower was not the least bit impressive in the early stages of its construction.  Ditto for the Tower of London.   And the Pentagon must have seemed downright odd until it was finished.

Rest assured, God is constructing a wall of stories in your life. Philippians 1:6 tells us precisely that:

“God is the one who began this good work in in you” (this good story!) “And I’m certain that He won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns” (CEV).

Next time you’re visiting the Windy City, make it a point to visit the Tribune Tower.  Don’t just walk by, either.  Touch the stones.  Feel the history.  And know that God is writing a story in the walls of your life, too!

 
The Best Day  

What’s the best day you can recall? 

For me, it would be the day I married Diana. Unforgettable.  Our honeymoon trip to the tourist trap known as Wisconsin Dells is without doubt the most fun and the most fabulous memory I have.

(You who are more spiritually minded will have to forgive me for not mentioning the day I received Christ as my favorite day.  But I was such a little kid at the time, I sort of took it all in stride). 

For our daughter, Lynnette, her favorite day on the whole calendar is….can you guess?  Hint: It’s not Christmas,  Give up?  It’s the Fourth of July.  Her flags and bunting and red-white-and-blue decorations are up weeks before the big day.   She and her family wouldn’t dream of taking in just one fireworks show.  They go to several.

This year during Fourth of July celebrations, Lynnette commented happily, “This is the best day!”  With four little kids around, she never lacks for an audience.  Five-year-old Caleb heard his mom’s pronouncement and begged to differ.  In a respectful but forthright tone, he countered, “Actually, the best day is the day we get to heaven.” 

Ka-pow!    Score one point for the five-year-old. 

The very first second we are conscious in heaven, we will certainly conclude, “this is the best day.”  Perfect health. Perfect faith.  Perfect rest.  Best of all, we’ll enjoy a perfect Savior whom we’ll worship perfectly doing perfectly suited tasks in a perfect environment perfectly satisfied for ever and ever.   

Caleb reminds us of Paul’s happy assertion in  1 Corinthians 2:9: “This is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.’”

No wonder Paul later declares in Philippians 1:23, “I'm torn between two desires” (going to heaven versus. remaining on earth). “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.”

Next time somebody asks you about your favorite day, I dare you to resist choosing any date from your past.  Instead, point to the future.  Point to heaven

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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