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Empty Pools  

Somewhere after the 30th floor, our ears popped riding the elevator up to the observation deck of Chicago’s Hancock building. Traveling vertically at 20 miles an hour, the 1,030 foot trip took a mere 45 seconds. But if our ears popped a little, our eyes popped all the more once reaching the 94th floor. Peering out, it’s impossible not to take dozens and dozens of photos.  

To the east, Lake Michigan is equal parts turquoise and tranquility.   To the north, a curving shoreline invites imagination and envy (who are these people who can afford to live on the lake?).   Staring west,  the gray grid of urban life—bursting with self-importance at ground level—loses any sense of bombast from the heights of the Hancock.   

Only until you are standing on the 94h floor do you finally see what we saw that hot afternoon: empty pools.  The roof of many a Chicago high rise is graced with a swimming pool (imagine the cost!). And there are more than you might think.  They are beautiful.  They were also empty of any swimmers.

Puzzled, I zoomed in on several of the photos I snapped—no swimmers.  It was a hot day—a perfect day—to be in the pool with the kids or by yourself. What could be nicer on a Saturday afternoon?  Alas, there were pools—but no swimmers.  Why?

Might this be a metaphor of how you and I take advantage—or fail to take advantage—of grace?  Like those rooftop pools, grace is expensive, costing  Jesus His life. And—like the pools captured in my pictures—though plentiful, grace is often under utilized.

The grace of forgiveness, the grace of release, the grace of freedom, the grace of a fresh start, the grace to fail and try again—amazingly, these pools are often left untouched. 

The result of all that graceless living is cranky Christians.  Christians reluctant to forgive or be forgiven.  Christians content to measure themselves and others by a weary, works-oriented scale that condemns but never consoles.   

How long has it been since you took a swim in the pools of grace?  It's time to plunge in!  Time to go deep in the waves of God’s infinite lovingkindness.


And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant , with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. —1 Timothy 1:14








Destinations--the Eternal Kind  

It’s a busy day at O’hare.  I’m headed for the glorious city of Cincinnati, tourist capital of the world.  (Okay , not quite).  Hey—it is what it is.  One lady on my flight really is flying to a fabulous destination: the Bahamas.  She started in Minnesota and flew to Chicago.  From Chicago, she will fly to Cincinnati (my flight).  Then it’s Cincinnati to Miami.  From Miami she takes off and finally reaches the Bahamas.  Hate to guess what her total travel time is!

Out the window I spot the usual logos plastered on planes large and small.  United, Delta, American, Alaska and SkyWest are here.  As are four inordinately yellow Spirit jets.  There are international flights lining up this morning, too: Air India, ANA Airlines and Etihad to name a few.

Conclusion: There’s a whole lot of people going somewhere today.  And if you were to ask them, you’d discover these travelers are absolutely certain of their destination. 

Nobody gets on a plane not knowing where it’s going, right?  Every passenger has a boarding pass and every boarding pass has a destination. 

Yet it’s amazing how many of us are so casual about our eternal destination, the place where we’ll be after we die.  I’ve asked many people, “Are you going to heaven?”  The most common response is a smile, a shrug, and something like: “Well I want to go to heaven.  I hope I get there.”

You hope?  You don’t know?  Hokey shmokes!  How could you possibly live that way? I feel like shouting (which I don’t).  “Don’t you want to know—for sure—where your eternal destination is?  And don’t you want that destination to be heaven?”  The other option—hell—is horrific!

“But how can you really know for sure?” Some have asked.  Here’s how I know.  The Bible says in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (go to heaven).    No fine print there.  No quid pro quo.  In 1 John 5:13 we are told, “These are written to you who believe in the name of Jesus so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). 

Just like every traveler at the airport, every human being has a boarding pass to eternity.  And you can know right now what yours says.  Revelation 20:15 reveals your destination:

And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Why leave things to chance?  Why let your destination be hell?  Choose to let Christ forgive you.  Heaven—or hell?  What does your boarding pass say?




Stories on the Walls  

Good thing you didn't drop by our house for a visit last month.  Or the previous month.  Or the month before that.  The place has been a wreck—literally.

We managed to drag out the installation of a new bathroom from March until mid-July.  And rather than enjoy it, we immediately (as in the very same day the toilet and faucets were finally connected) emptied our master bedroom to begin a major overhaul there as well.

The joints where the ceiling meets the walls were cracked. So we had to rip out most of the paper seams, replace them, and then mud and sand the whole area.  Working on the skylight was a particular joy (it’s a 14 foot-tall cathedral ceiling, so that meant many hours on a scaffold).

Next, it was time to paint.  And did I mention we decided to replace plastic floor trim and cheaper lauan door trim with real oak?  In tearing off some of the old trim, I chuckled at the discovery of two love notes I’d written to my wife on the back of the boards.  “Jon loves Diana” declared one of them in a red ink that was hardly faded even after 30 years.  Which reminds me that in previous remodeling projects, I’ve been known to paint messages to her right on the walls.

When it was time to roll up the old carpet I discovered another memory on the plywood floor: a distinctive splotch of dried blood—mine.  Three decades ago, in the process of cutting a small piece of drywall to screw into the ceiling, I ended up slicing off the very tip of my thumb. Ouch.  What a memory.

Love notes. Messages.  Memories.  There are stories on our walls—quite literally.  Those careful enough to look will likely find them at some future date.

The same is true with the walls of our souls.  They, too, bear messages, notes, and memories.  The question is, what do they say about us?  About our faith?  About the way we have loved God and others?

When we are dead and gone, what will people encounter when they read the stories on the walls?  We’re writing them now, you know.

  • A day at a time.
  • A deed at a time.


What will yours say about you



Whatever Happened to Repentance?  

Do you ever wonder why Christians watch about the same amount of R-rated films as the rest of society?   Do you ever ask why Christians look at almost as much pornography as the world?  Do you ever wonder why Christians divorce at nearly the same rate as the secular culture? 

I have a one-word theory: repentance.

Whatever happened to repentance—the biblical concept of having sorrow over our sin?  Repentance means changing your mind and changing your direction: away from sin and toward godliness.

In Matthew 3:8, Jesus commanded, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” If you and I claim Christ as our Savior, there ought to be something good coming out of our lives: fruit that others can taste!  If you say you’re a Christian but your life is mostly unchanged—there’s little or no fruit—maybe it’s time for a spiritual inventory.  

God forbid I should make salvation seem one whit more complicated than “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”   It really is just that simple.  Still, we cannot escape the biblical mandate to repent!  Hear me clearly. Repentance isn’t the price of our salvation.  Repentance is the proof of our salvation.

But many think they’re okay as long as they pray a prayer to receive Jesus as Savior.  Unbelievably, many keep on living about the same way they’ve always lived.  Same dirty jokes, same crummy movies, and the same idols of success, money, fame and sex.  They are satisfied with an eternal fire insurance plan.  Yet Jesus says, “Repent!  The kingdom of God is at hand!”

Please note: God isn’t in the insurance business!  He’s in the holiness business.   He didn't come to pass out spiritual Band-Aids!  He came to do heart transplants—permanent life-change from inside-out.  It’s not about showing up in church to “make God happy!”  It’s about God showing up in you to make you holy!

It’s time to repent—all of us—to have a godly sorrow for our sins that motivates us to turn from evil and turn to godliness.

  • Repent!  Because judgement day is coming.
  • Repent!  Because the loss of eternal rewards is at stake.
  • Repent!  Because Jesus has commanded it. 

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

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


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