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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

 

 

 

 

 

 
Worth Just 49 Cents?  

Can you name this author?  Two clues:

  • Clue #1: He wrote nearly 10% of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in the English language.
  • Clue #2: Only one other English writer is quoted more often.

Who was he? William Shakespeare, of course (“a rose by any other name....parting is such sweet sorrow...”). He wrote 37 plays that total 884,429 words. By comparison, the King James Bible contains 783,137 words.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, Shakespeare was among the mightiest. That’s why I was so stunned when I saw the offer from Amazon Kindle.

I could buy the complete works of Shakespeare for the princely sum of...(cue the minstrel)...49 cents! Though I love a good bargain, this struck me as criminal. All that beautifully crafted dialogue, all those spectacular sonnets valued at less than half a buck?  It didn’t seem right.

And that takes me to the point of this blog. How much do we value—truly value—the Word of God? What if I shared some metrics that could prove how much you love (or merely like) the Word of God?

If we love the Word of God, we...

  • Read it. All the time. No day is complete without time spent in the Word.
  • Quote it.  As easily as we quote movie lines or ad slogans.
  • Live it. It directs our daily thoughts and actions. It routinely corrects and guides us.

What do our lives say about how much we value the Bible? Is the Word always on our hearts and minds?  Can we quote from it as easily as we do the latest episode of the Mandalorian?  Or do we give it—say—49 cents worth of attention? 

 
Totaled!  

How to ruin a perfectly sunny morning:

STEP 1: Find yourself snarled in stop-and-go traffic.

STEP 2: Come to a complete stop and wait until...

STEP 3: Another car bumps into yours.

That was us.  In God's kindness, the collision claimed no casualties. The airbags didn't go off, and when we surveyed the damage, it seemed apparent this was a rather minor accident. Thankfully, the other driver was insured, and the fender-bender left our car drivable. No drama, mama.

One month later, we were reminded that things are not always as they appear.  The voice on the other end of the line explained that the insurance company was going to total our nicely maintained minivan.

“No way!” we gasped. 

It turns out the car that hit us was just small enough that upon impact, it slid under our bumper and bent the frame.  The lay-flat seats in the back were not quite flat—because of the bend in the frame.  And the list of problems went on.

The thing is, if all you saw were the mashed tailgate and bumper, you would never believe the vehicle was that bad off. Did I mention it ruined a perfectly sunny morning?

Pondering the prospect of hunting for another car (used cars are now priced at a premium, and dealers have few new ones in stock), a new thought came to me about personal hurt and loss.

What we see in someone else's life as a mere fender bender may well be for them a devastating—even life-defining—moment. Things are not always as they appear. And pain is a mysterious—if not personal—thing.

Upon seeing the (apparent) fender bender a friend has gone through, it's human nature to suggest we genuinely know the pain they feel because—after all—who hasn't been through a fender bender? 

But maybe—just maybe—there’s more to it than meets the eye. Things, after all, are not always as they appear.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

—Colossians 3:12

 
Mutts Gone Nuts  

Mutts Gone Nuts.

That's how they billed the evening.  Five dogs—all rescued from animal shelters and trained by Scott and Joan Houston and Sam Valle—delighted the audience with their antics and agility. 

We smiled as the dogs scampered on rotating barrels.

We chuckled as these furry friends danced on two legs. 

Then trainer Samantha Valle—who has appeared on Kelly and Ryan—introduced us to the greyhound that holds the record for the highest jump of any dog in the world.

But the thing that blew my mind was watching one of the dogs jump rope and then do Double Dutch jump roping!  I can't imagine how long that training took.  Amazing to think that these dogs have gone from shelter to show biz. 

Remarkable as the performance was, I couldn’t help but notice the immediate rewards doled out to each dog after every trick.  Tasty snacks of some kind. I'm sure the dogs are plenty good-natured (and certainly hard working). But, they did not do what they did out of a sense of animal altruism. They did it for the treats.

As those mutts finished their performance, I felt a gnawing in my soul (and no, it wasn’t a dog!).  Exactly how much like those dogs are you and I? I’m not speaking of our agility—I’ve never been good at jump rope!  I’m asking—do we do what we do for God only because of the “treats” we expect Him to give us?

Do we spin and jump through hoops only for the hope of an immediate reward, a spiritual buzz of some sort?  Or worse, do we secretly do what we do merely to keep up appearances?  Are we trying to impress fellow Christians (in a “golly-it-wasn’t-much”) fake humility?

There is nothing wrong with the hope of eternal rewards. We should be thinking about them, even motivated by them.

But there is everything wrong with a soul that demands instant pay-outs, instant affirmation, instant treats.  God forbid we try to hammer grace into gratification on the anvil of our need.

 

Lord, help me do what I do because I love you.

Not so that you’ll give me something more.

Amen!

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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